Thursday, May 05, 2005

Beacon No. 33: Sweeps in the Middle East


Today's Wall Street Journal points out that the Syrian TV-production season is currently in full swing:

Spring is the season for shooting Syrian television dramas for broadcast during the critical Ramadan holiday viewing season in October. That's when the Arab world rolls out its best new shows, and many Middle Easterners indulge in a month-long TV binge. In a major market like Egypt, as many as eight in 10 households with TV sets watch them nightly during Ramadan. "This is prime time," says Hussein Amin, head of the media and communications department at American University of Cairo.

Tens of millions of eyeballs will be glued to the set during Islam's holiest month, which this year starts on October 5. It's like the "sweeps" used to measure U.S. TV viewership in the months of February, May and November all rolled into one short lunar month—and a prime opportunity for U.S. international broadcasting to make a splash at relatively low cost.

Perhaps Al-Hurra—or some other U.S.-backed broadcaster—should get into the drama business to take advantage of the Muslim world's (briefly) unified attention. It would be easiest, given the short notice, to simply translate a month's worth of episodes of a quality U.S. drama, say The West Wing or Law and Order, into Arabic to show aspects of U.S. politics and society to Middle Eastern audiences.

And that's warts and all: People of all races and classes cooperate in both shows, and merit and ethical behavior are usually rewarded—but on the other hand, white supremacists try to kill President Bartlett's African American assistant early on in The West Wing, and the president himself orders the assassination of a Middle Eastern defense minister and then covers it up.

(As an aside, the WSJ article notes that Seinfeld is translated into Arabic for broadcast on Syrian TV. I cannot think of a less likely show to be a hit overseas, with the possible exception of the long-running success of Hogan's Heroes in Germany.)

No comments:

Site Meter