We noticed you're blocking ads.

Keep supporting great journalism by turning off your ad blocker.

Questions about why you are seeing this? Contact us

Font Size

- Aa +

Tue 19 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

Font Size

- Aa +

Sleazy TV

In August 1990, a horrible episode in the lives of the Arabs took place. The Gulf war began, giving birth to 24-hour news coverage.

About 17 years ago a significant, if sad, event happened that ushered the dawn of a new era in the world - the rise of global TV. In August 1990, a horrible episode in the lives of the Arabs took place. Iraq invaded Kuwait.

This incident alone gave birth to an industry that did not exist prior to that point. Global coverage of news events was, until that point, covered in the usual news broadcast of television stations at predicted times. Then the first Gulf war happened.

I doubt you will find a tolerant society without finding social problems that need to be addressed.

This painful episode in Arab history gave birth to the 24-hour news channel when CNN became the first channel to cover the war on a continuous basis. Unbeknown to us as Arabs, it would act as the conduit that sparked a race to be the sleaziest Arabic broadcast to air via satellite.

If we cast a critical eye on the nearly 430-plus Arabic channels that broadcast to the Arab world, we find that only a handful are what one could call in relative clarity proper channels.

However you find that what these channels promote, and yes this is the proper word to use here, is utter garbage and brain-numbing rubbish. Instead these channels became the perfect vehicle to turn a normal, healthy person into a vegetable.

Even more unfortunate is that the only channels that even have a remote chance of becoming financially viable are these. In Arabic slang, these channels, are known as the "hishik bishik", which refers to the uncouth dancing on the streets.

They have only one goal in mind - to make money. The questions that one could legitimately ask: whether making money is bad? Whether they were not providing a service that people are willing to pay for? Whether this is moral or not?

I don't think anyone would argue that making money is bad or wrong. On the contrary, we, as Arabs, have always enjoyed a certain reputation as traders. Thus the idea of making money is a perfectly acceptable one. After all, look at all the companies that exist and show me one that exists for the sake of humanitarian purposes and I will show you one that will not last a long time.

The way most of the Arabic satellite channels make their money is in one or a combination of three ways. They either attract financial sponsors like advertising dollars. They run competitions that would be closer to gambling and lotteries.

Or lastly, they benefit from a recent phenomena in the Arab world - the spread of mobile phones and the gift of the Finns - SMS. The mobile phone service providers allocate a certain number and people text their messages on these channels, usually music channels, in return, the mobile service provider and the channel split the money generated.

Let me end my article by saying that not all Arabic satellite channels are sleazy. In fact, we have a number of very successful and well respected legitimate channels of the likes of Al Jazeera. But one can't help but feel that there is a downgrade of the average Arab viewer.

For once, we cannot blame others for our shortcomings. We have decided that the average Arabic viewer is dumb and thinks below the belt. The financial health of these sleazy channels proves that they are right. Sad.

Mishal Kanoo is the Deputy Chairman of the Kanoo Group. It is one of the largest family owned companies in the Gulf. The Kanoo family is the 11th richest in the Arab world with a fortune of US$6.1bn.

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall

Real news, real analysis and real insight have real value – especially at a time like this. Unlimited access ArabianBusiness.com can be unlocked for as little as $4.75 per month. Click here for more details.