Mar 21 2018

Arab network likely to suffer after suspending Turkish dramas – Financial Times

Shareholders of the Saudi-owned Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC), the Middle East’s largest private broadcaster, may regret the network’s decision to take all Turkish television shows off the air, as the move will likely drive away viewers, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday.

Television dramas have become one of Turkey’s most significant cultural exports, particularly in the Arab region where they are hugely popular and have helped bolster Turkish soft power for the past decade.

Yet as Turkey’s foreign policy drove it away from Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies, talked turned to the unwanted influence the television shows were having, with one Saudi commentator describing them as the spearhead of the Turkish ruling Justice and Development Party’s “neo-Ottoman imperial dream”.

No explanation was given for the suspension of the Turkish serials, but industry executives assume it was a political decision made in Riyadh, which is in full control of MBCs business decisions after holding MBC chairman Waleed bin Ibrahim al-Ibrahim under arrest in the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton last November, said the Financial Times report.

However, with Turkish programmes readily available from other sources, including internet broadcasters such as Netflix, MBC may have achieved little more than damaging its own brand.

“In a region where the media is largely government-controlled, the broadcaster had learned to balance Saudi government interests while catering to its viewers,” said the article referring to the business model that turned MBC into the Middle East’s largest private broadcaster. The reversal of that is likely to lose the network its credibility and viewers.

Click here to read the Financial Times article in full.