Tuesday, April 12, 2005

American Media . . .

Over at Baghdad Burning - the girl from Iraq has a post dedicated to what is going on in the Middle East / Arab world with all the new satellite television channels - her views on the subject.

In the last year we have been bombarded with American TV. Of course being an American in Libya and having gone through the 'woes of the TV situation' I find it all extremely interesting.

You see, when I first came to Libya in 1989 (God, has it really been that long!) there wasn't a whole lot of excitement when it came to television. We had one local Arabic channel that came on in the afternoon and was mostly propaganda, local news, some Arabic soap operas, and a few dubbed cartoons. The highlight of the week - and still is on Libyan TV, are Wednesday evenings when they have the accident and crime reports. You get to hear all the latest and goriest car accident reports, and see what the automobiles involved looked like. And you get to hear about all the petty criminals on the crime part of the show. A big bonus is the occasional hanging - not live, but certainly on TV.

The other channel was the English/French channel that came on for about three hours every evening. It had the news in English and French (most of it propaganda) and old, very old, re-runs of Dallas, Little House on the Prairie, and a few other shows - all of them highly edited - meaning not only cutting out kissing or SEX scenes but even cutting out the scenes of Ma, Pa, Laura and siblings saying grace. Once a week you got a movie - but they didn't have very many movies and they recycled them all the time. These movies were old too.

If you had a decent antenna up on the roof and clear weather you could watch Tunisian TV, as well as some Italian channels. Tunisian TV wasn't much more exciting then Libyan TV. Italian TV had all kinds of American shows, but of course dubbed in Italian. So you either had to know Italian or be proficient in lip reading to get much out of the Italian channels. Of course Libya at the time was a very closed society, so watching Italian TV in front of the kids or in-laws was risky as there were FLESH and SEX scenes.

Then came the advent of satellite. In the beginning it was only for the very rich - as it was very expensive. People that installed them would find themselves surrounded by family, neighbours and friends as everyone would come over to watch with you and bask in the glow of the eternal flame. This was the days of analog satellite - the craze started again when digital satellite was introduced. Now almost everyone has a satellite, or two (or four or five) up on the roof.

In the past year we've been bombarded with American TV shows on the satellite. In the beginning, I thought 'Hey, this is great!' But now I'm not so sure. It is all so organized. Disinfected of all the real news, I never feel like I really know what is going on in the world when I watch American TV. It's so fake, and it's really heavy on the propaganda too, but in a kind of 'in through the backdoor' kind of way.

One thing I don't like is the casual 'anything goes' attitude that is promoted on American TV. Do I want to have the idea pushed at my family that sex out side of marriage is fine - as long as you use a condom? There must be a gay or lesbian character on nearly every show. Whining, back-talking kids abound. Subjects that we definitely don't condone in our house are now in our house the minute we turn on American TV.

At first I got all excited that we had Oprah! Now even Oprah is a definite 'no, no' in our house. The 'no, no' started when she had victims of incest on. It's not that I don't think you shouldn't talk about these subjects with your kids, but I think being a Muslim and raising my kids that way, I would prefer to explain these thing to my kids using our religion to back me up. I don't want Oprah telling my kids what's what in life. Anyway, when Oprah isn't luring viewers to tune-in by handing out expensive presents to the guests in her audience, she is just trying to lure them in with the shock of weird issues (or house decorating and diet crapola). All this in the name of entertainment.

I can't get into the reality show stuff either. The show where they make over people giving them all kinds of plastic surgery is ridiculous - why not invest some of that money in some kind of counseling instead? It's all so superficial - so removed from the reality of what life is like for most people in the world. The idea of reality shows have spread to the Arab world - they've got Arabic versions of Star Academy and a few other things. My daughter Nora says the shows are boring and don't have any value - but she says the girls at school watch them.

I've got a password on the satellite receiver and I'm the only one that knows the password. The kids complain, but I don't care. They would watch cartoons 24/7 if they had the chance.


  1. Great entry. I could remember way back in libya in the mid to late 80's, there was nothing much on tv. No wonder our neighbours had their antennae as high as possible. I guess they want to catch some italian programmes. I think we even got to watch some french channel. I remember I used to watch the tennis matches live on tv. That's how I got so hooked on tennis & practically know the rules just by watching tv. It's true that the Libyan programmes do air loads of propaganda. I guess all countries do so. When I was in India, States & in my home country the tv stations would air propaganda, it's just that some of us were not aware of it.

  2. That is what I call a great post! I wanted to write about this subject myself , but you've said it so much better . It would have taken me 6 pages of arguments to get the point. :) I'm going to quote you over at my blog.

  3. This is always a hot topic in Canada, as we are directly affected by US tv content... we actually have laws limiting our stations to how much US tv can be aired (minimum Canadian shows must be aired)... but most of the channels we get are American. The one that drives me nuts is CNN - I refuse to watch it - it is such a warped view of reality about what is going on in the world. My sister lives in California and doesn't have any non-American channels - I feel she has become very isolated because of this.

  4. I turn on CNN and quickly read thru the teletext. Then I switch to BBC or Euronews. One channel that boils my blood is FOX News - that channel must be run by a bunch of rednecks or something :|


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