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ARABIAN   SIGHTS

 

INTRO

Arab ex-patriots living in Europe have at least five satellite channels to choose from, but we have found out that the most popular Arab TV station comes from Parson's Green...

 

COPY

Arab satellite television is almost as diverse as the Arabian people. If your geography's not so hot the Arabian peninsular is made up of twenty-one countries, mostly bordering the Red Sea, with a combined population of around 200 million. The unifying factors are the Arabic language and the Islamic religion, and that's where the hard facts begin and end for no-one can say with any degree of certainty how many ex-patriots there are living in Europe, and in particular the UK, though informed sources suggest there may be as many as 75,000 in London alone.

 

Right now there are five TV and two radio channels carrying programmes in Arabic, broadcast across Europe from Eutelsats F1 and F3; they're positioned at 13 and 16 degrees East of South respectively, which puts them almost next-door to the Astra satellites. Several other channels are rumoured to be in the pipeline, though no-one we've spoken to is willing to commit themselves on satellites or start-up dates, we'll keep you informed. Reception in the UK is fairly straightforward; a large (80cm to 1-metre) dish and regular receiver set-up is normally adequate for the Southern half of the country.

 

Suleyman Cangoz from Express Satellite has installed many systems for his Arab-speaking customers, like many other dealers he favours systems based around Pace and Nokia receivers, with matching positioners for full multi-satellite operation. 'We reckon a typical motorised system, with an 80cm dish costs around 550'. We asked him if a fixed dish system be simpler and cheaper? 'It's the most flexible option' he says,  'it's easier to sell motorised systems nowadays, people have become used to the idea of the dish moving around to receive signals from other satellites'.

 

THE PROGRAMMING

MBC or Middle Eastern Broadcasting is the only Arabic STV channel not to originate from the Middle East, in fact they're based in Parson's Green, in London, which hardly fits the image of a romantic desert setting, but MBC are quite unique, their output is primarily intended for a Middle Eastern audience. The channel, which runs for 12 hours a day (15 on Friday) is carried by both Eutelsat and Arabsat, and it's the Eutelsat coverage that is picked up in the UK by viewers with satellite dishes, or subscribers to cable networks on the continent. MBC's output is predominantly general entertainment with a typical mix of soaps, current affairs, news and at least one movie each day, usually produced by the thriving Egyptian film industry. An Indian film is normally shown on Sundays. MBC are particularly proud of their news coverage -- up to ninety minutes every day -- they have around 80 people working in their London news room, with international correspondents in most major cities. During our research the quality of news and current affairs on Arabic STV channels was frequently criticised for being insular and biased, MBCs popularity appears to be based to large extent on the impartiality of their news and current affairs programming.

 

Sport is another key element in MBCs schedule and there are cartoons, women's and home interest shows during the morning and afternoon. Some Western drama serials and soaps are also shown, they're dubbed into Egyptian. Surprisingly religious content is fairly low-level, though the station opens and closes each day with readings from the Koran. 

 

CASE HISTORIES

Our admittedly small scale survey of Arab satellite TV viewers failed to find any real enthusiasts for the other four channels, indeed several of our interviewees were not even aware that some of them even existed, even though they had multi-satellite systems capable of picking them up. Those who who did watch them had very little to say about the scope or nature of the programming. In contrast MBC was widely praised and a consistent  favourite; Sahab Ell Salish, a businessman and father of two from North London had his system installed just over a year ago. 'I personally don't see much TV, I watch  CNN, Sky News and occasionally MBC which is quite good, my children are students and they don't see it much either, the other channels are not very interesting'.  Deja Ourdi, originally from Morocco now living in North London follows the news programmes on the Arabic channels. 'I'm interested in current affairs and you get better coverage of events in the region from MBC. I watch a lot of CNN for the world news, and RTM1, mostly because it's from Morocco, and I'm Moroccan.

 

We asked where you could find out about Arabic television programmes, most of those we spoke too either didn't know, or seem particularly interested, though Deja Ourdi pointed out that there were a number of Arabic newspapers, published in London. Listings are carried by Middle-Eastern dailies Asharq, Al Awsat Al Hayat, Al Arab and Al Ahran. MBC schedules are also available on teletext, though there is a problem in that few teletext decoders have the necessary Arab chipset, needed to display all the characters. Philips apparently make one, though it seems it is not very widely available.

 

BOX COPY 1. -- ARABIC TV AND RADIO CHANNELS

 

CHANNEL                     SAT                  TR            FQ/POL      CONTENT

RTM1                           EII F3            16E            25L            10.972/V      Moroccan gen. ent.         

ESC                              EII F3            16E            27U            11.178/V      Egyptian gen. ent

TV7 Tunisie                  EII F3            16E            39            11.658/V      Tunisian state chan

MBC                             EII F1            13E             32            11.554/H      Middle-Eastern B-cast

Emirates Dubai TV        EII F1            13E            34L            11.638/H      Gen. ent and news        

 

RADIO CHANNELS

RTM Intl                       EII F3            16E            25L            7.02                Arabic news music

Radio Tunisia Intl       EII F3            16E            39            7.2                  Arabic news music

 

contact nos.

Deja Ourdi -- 081-985 1318

Sahab Ell Salish -- 081-907 8218

MBC -- 071-371 9595 PR man Nick Hart (ex BSB)

 

 

 

---end---

R.Maybury 1994 2601

 


 

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