Only five months away, Ramadan is quickly approaching, and with that, so is Ramadan television season. A time for family, reflection, and religion, entertainment also plays a role during the holy month. As families gather after dusk, Arab television networks present a large number of series addressing a diverse range of subjects. Egypt, in particular, dominates this space.
As advertising rates at least double because of the holiday’s large viewership, television networks have an opportunity to advance certain agendas. In places like Egypt where the media is not free, the Egyptian regime is assuredly commandeering this space.
Synergy, a production house of Egyptian Media Group (EMG), is slated to produce the majority of Ramadan television series in 2019. EMG is associated with the Egyptian Intelligence Directorate (GID), also known as the Mukhabarat, an agency responsible for providing intelligence. The Mukhabarat has often instructed talk-show hosts and TV personalities on what to say, regarding national and world politics. The director of the GID reports to President Abdel Fattah el Sisi.
In a piece for Mada Nasr, translated by Mariam Ibrahim, Mohamed Al-Aswany dives deep into how this year’s Ramadan television season faces a particular threat from Egyptian state propaganda.
[P]arallel to seasonal debates among industry heads over these issues, the [Egyptian] state was preparing a plan to exert control over the entire market. The first signs of this plan emerged in June 2017, with statements by the president and a number of government officials voicing their displeasure with the content offered on Ramadan TV series, and their desire to remedy the situation. This remedy manifested in the form of extreme censorship measures, including the establishment of the Drama Committee within the Supreme Meda [sic] Regulatory Council, designed to monitor the TV drama industry. Another attempt at controlling the content of Ramadan TV series entailed ordering writers to product certain screenplays, to be produced under close state supervision. The effects of these directives became apparent last year in the striking similarity of the content of the series released, as well as the ubiquity of police and army officers as characters in most of them.
Read the full piece here.