View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Monday, September 1, 2008

Ramadan Reflection on Banning Music Videos

The Middle East’s new youth entertainment and lifestyle TV-channel MTV Arabia announced that it is marking the holy month of Ramadan by refraining from screening music videos.

Some call it “religious censorship over music videos”. Others appreciate that the TV channel is showing sensitivity towards the solemnity of the Islamic month of fasting.

MTV Arabia’s manager Samr Al Mazouqi expanded on this decision by saying: “The Holy Month is a time for introspection, and we would like to offer our viewers a break from the ordinary fare. ... MTV Arabia is conscious of regional sensitivities and we are keen to respond to the needs and desires of viewers in the Middle East, the vast majority of whom will be fasting, spending time with family, and focusing on their spiritual lives.”

During Ramadan, the MTV Arabia channel will continue to play programmes from MTV’s international roster of reality shows, celebrity news and pop culture documentaries.

“We have high censorship on what goes on air in terms of language, images, everything has high censorship,” the station’s head of productions and promotions, Rasha Al Eman, told Communicate Magazine in December 2007.

Different Views
Perplexed MTV-viewers such as Samir, an IT consultant, was quoted as saying:

“This is just an empty gesture which will not have any lasting impact. People will just switch on to other channels and watch music videos there. If we really believe in the idea that music videos are ‘bad’, they should not be aired all year through. I think it’s better to leave it to individuals and let them decide whether they want to watch ‘bad things’ in Ramadan or not.”

The Middle East Business News website opened an online debate page with the question: “Why is MTV Arabia stopping music videos, the USP of the channel, during Ramadan?”

Samir has got a point. Not all shops close their doors throughout Ramadan but they have different hours and they throw the responsibility on people to decide what they will and will not purchase.

Doesn’t fasting bring greater benefits if it is a matter of self-denial or self-censorship rather than having others decide what you can tune into?

What is the actual point of this decision? Is the music harmful or is the ban an imposed ‘fast’—to give up things that can distract people from Ramadan’s central theme. Is the music more harmful or distracting than the reality shows, celebrity news and pop culture documentaries which will still go to air?

What do you think about this decision?

Link: MTV Arabia Refrains from Playing Music Videos, Freemuse, 1 September 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: MTV Arabia logo.