Arab TV Ban on Turkish dramas hurts “neo-Ottoman” dream – AW

The decision by prominent Saudi-owned television network MBC to suspend broadcasts of all Turkish soap operas on its channels will hurt Ankara’s overriding foreign policy goals, Sami Moubayed wrote for The Arab Weekly on Sunday.

The Middle East Broadcasting Center, one of the major pan-Arab television networks, announced this month that it would cut all Turkish soap operas from its programming. The announcement will deal a significant blow to one of Turkey’s major cultural exports, which Moubayed said generates as much as $150 million in revenues annually.

The decision, however, was a “political move par excellence,” wrote Moubayed, the results of which will go far beyond the economic to damage Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s dreams of expanding the country’s influence across the Arab states that were formerly Ottoman territories – the foreign policy doctrine known as “Neo-Ottomanism.”

Turkey under the AKP made considerable efforts to cultivate close relationships with nearby Arab states, and to present to their populations a positive rebranding of the Ottoman Empire, after decades of anti-Ottoman indoctrination in Arab media and government curriculums, said Moubayed.

The export of Turkish soap operas, dubbed into Arabic and hugely popular in these countries, helped significantly in this policy, subtly changing perceptions around Ottoman history in Arab eyes, while also helping draw hugely increased numbers of tourists from Arab countries.

However, Turkey’s Middle East policies have veered sharply away from Saudi Arabia and its allies’. Turkey’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, a group outlawed in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, and its alliance with Qatar in the tiny Gulf State’s standoff against this quartet, have severely damaged relations.

Thus, the move to ban the television shows goes far beyond the drama on the screen to severely curtail Turkey’s cultural expansionism in Arab countries, said Moubayed’s article.