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Tue 6 Mar 2018 02:47 PM

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Saudi-owned broadcaster takes hit Turkish soaps off-air

Move by MBC prompts fans to take to social media to express dismay

Saudi-owned broadcaster takes hit Turkish soaps off-air
A promotional photo for MBC's Turkish drama Laila.

Saudi-owned broadcaster MBC has stopped airing Turkish soap operas, a spokesman said on Tuesday, prompting fans to take to social media to express dismay.

MBC said the move, which comes amid tensions between Ankara and some Gulf Arab states, was aimed at promoting Arab content.

"We will try to replace Turkish soaps with premium quality Arabic dramas that embody the values and traditions of the region," MBC spokesman Mazen Hayek told AFP.

The satellite network pulled the plug on Turkish soaps dubbed in Arabic, long a hit across the Middle East, last Friday.

Saudi Arabia and ally the United Arab Emirates accuse Turkey of supporting Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood that they say fan insecurity.

Turkey has also thrown its weight behind Qatar in the emirate's nine-month-old rift with Saudi Arabia and its allies over allegations that it too backed Islamist groups and was too close to Iran.

But Hayek insisted the network's decision to stop an average of six hours a day of Turkish programming - mid-season - was driven by economic and cultural considerations.

The average production cost for one hour of Arabic drama is between $40,000 and $100,000 compared to $250,000 for slick Turkish soaps, he said.

"The challenge now is to fill the vacuum of Turkish soaps with top quality Arabic content," Hayek said.

"We are investing in alternate content."

The dubbed Turkish soaps were a particular hit with house wives, he added.

"For some people life will stop," a woman said on Twitter, using the Arabic hashtag "Turkish dramas have stopped".

Another tweeted with the same hashtag: "If you see me now, I have high blood pressure, high sugar level."

MBC is controlled by Saudi businessman Walid al-Ibrahim, who was held for nearly three months in a sweeping anti-corruption drive targeting Saudi Arabia's elite.

The Financial Times has reported that authorities ordered him to hand over his controlling stake in MBC to secure his release. Saudi authorities have so far not commented on his case.