Arabs watch western TV but want regional content

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Manama: Findings from a pan-Arab study released on Wednesday show high region-wide concern about cultural preservation and support for media regulation, but also a general embrace of international content.

The survey by Northwestern University in Qatar (NUQ) in partnership with Doha Film Institute reveals that 65 per cent of residents in six Arab countries want more content portraying their own culture and history, while an equal number (66 per cent) say people benefit from watching content from different parts of the world. More than 70 per cent region-wide want greater regulation of romantic and violent content.

The “Entertainment Media Use in the Middle East” survey represents 6,035 face-to-face interviews in nationally representative samples of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia and the UAE.

Findings from the survey of both media use and cultural attitudes call into question a common perception that modernity and cultural preservation are at odds in the Arab world, the university said in a press release.

While 79 per cent of respondents feel that more should be done to preserve cultural traditions, a nearly similar percentage (70 per cent) agree with the statement that more should be done to integrate their respective cultures with modern society.

“These apparently contradictory findings really are not, but reflect how the Arab world is coping with globalisation and still grappling to preserve local culture,” Everette E. Dennis, dean and CEO of Northwestern University in Qatar, said.

“Understanding cultural attitudes around entertainment is as important to industry leaders and policymakers as viewership and other audience figures. This research provides a base of knowledge for executives across all sectors, including entertainment, sport, and children’s programming.”

A vast majority of adults believe entertainment content should be more regulated for romantic content (69 per cent) and violence (74 per cent). Sixty-eight per cent believe films or other entertainment programmes should be banned altogether if they are found offensive.

The survey also showed that nearly half of women in the Arab world ‘binge-watch’ TV series (49 per cent), whether online or on television. ‘Only 31 per cent of men surveyed do the same.’

Binge-watching is classified as viewing two or more episodes of a series in the same sitting.

“This study is the first of its kind in our region and we believe that the findings will be of great benefit to all sectors of the entertainment industry, from both a commercial and cultural standpoint,” Abdul Aziz Al Khater, CEO of Doha Film Institute, said.

“What we see from these numbers is a growing demand for locally generated entertainment. The findings reinforce the idea that nurturing a thriving creative industry in our region is vital to enabling the creation of content that accurately reflects Arab culture,” he said.

(NUQ) and Doha Film Institute launched the collaborative effort in November. On May 5, the Qatar-specific findings will be discussed in detail at the Qatar Media Industries Forum, an NU-Q initiative that brings together Qatar’s leading media executives to discuss key issues in Qatari and regional media industries.

This survey, conducted in collaboration with Harris Poll, builds on a similar study focusing on news and information media use in the Arab world, released by NU-Q in the spring of 2013.

The survey was conducted from January 27 through February 26. Participants answered questions on a wide range of topics, including the role of entertainment media in their lives and related cultural attitudes.

Staff Report

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