Television still enjoys a special place among Arab families despite the growing role of social media and the rise of digital platforms that have clearly changed the ways and forms of television use.
The importance of television for the Arab family is especially evident during the month of Ramadan, when various television stations compete to “fill” their screens with content that is often said about them.
One of the most prominent aspects of Ramadan television is the stigmatization of mediocrity and accusations of underestimating viewers’ tastes.
This does not seem strange, given the behavior of the Arab consumer during the month of Ramadan, which tends towards laziness and relaxation, general behavior that affects his psychological, mental and physical preparations.
Fathia Saidi: Ramadan contributes to making the individual a consumer par excellence
First, it must be acknowledged that Ramadan television is merely entertainment television, or seeks to be so, and therefore lacks political, economic, and cultural programs, depriving members of society of the most important democratic right. that will discuss public issues in a pluralistic and balanced public space. Even the discussions of “citizenship” that are exercised in cafes during Ramadan evenings, revolve mostly around the dramatic productions of Ramadan and their heroes and heroines, without addressing in depth the issues raised by these works, if issues arise.
As for the cultural product on many Arabic screens, it is reduced to a simple continuation of the artistic and entertaining evenings of Ramadan. While cooking programs are of great interest to viewers looking to fill the belly and owners of TV channels because they represent an attractive and appealing element to commercial advertisers who are eager to promote their goods in all ways.
Advertisers and those in charge of commercial companies have extensive areas on Ramadan TV through prolonged ignitions that interrupt viewer viewing.
Sociologist Fathia Al-Saeedi believes that consumerism is characteristic of all modern societies, but is particularly pronounced in Islamic societies during the month of Ramadan.
From a sociological point of view, Al-Saeedi added in a statement to Al-Arab that “Ramadan contributes to making the individual a consumer par excellence, especially as families stick to morning meetings and watch TV together, which creates a desire for “Participate in consumption. This participation gives a special psychological pleasure that is not enjoyed in the other months of the year.”
Shadia Khedir: The audience contributes to changing and modifying the content through interaction
This has been well studied by the owners of commercial advertising, according to the sociologist, taking advantage of the psychological and biological readiness for consumption in individuals. Al-Saeedi cited several social studies showing that the expenses of the Tunisian citizen, for example, during Ramadan exceed the size of his income due to his willingness “Ramadan” to spend on the one hand, and due to his siege media and advertising. temptations that drive consumption.
We note that Arab viewers are debating and talking about two main issues: cell phones, modern technologies, and food products. And both goods are promoted by Ramadan TV through commercial advertising blitz. Here appeared the danger of confusion of media and commercial content in the minds of viewers. This is a risk perpetuated by the dominant commercial and consumer approach to Ramadan TV, and the fierce competition between TV channels to get a bigger chunk of commercials has deepened it, to the point that the boundaries between public and private television are unclear. In Ramadan, media and dramatic content are similar to winning the favor of commercial advertisers.
In Tunisia, for example, the Independent High Authority for Audiovisual Media (HAICA), a body in charge of organizing the audiovisual scene in Tunisia, became aware of the risk of tyranny of the material and commercial nature of television content during Ramadan, an issue that surrounded Tunisian public television and plunged it into the lucrative commercial mazes that led to it.for its true role. He prevented the publication of the results of the measurement of the audience or the so-called measurement of the degree of visibility published by the institutions specialized in performing these operations, which are intensively active during Ramadan, and are closely followed by owners of capital and owners of commercial companies. , so that they can invest in the work around which a larger audience gathers and fills it with commercial flashes.
In recent years, this process in Tunisia has created a serious problem that has also affected the moral code of competition between different television stations. The case went so far as to accuse some companies of sound opinions and measuring visibility levels for fraud, direction and alliance with parties against others.
The danger still exists despite the HAICA decision taken on the occasion of the current Ramadan; There have been lobbies that have put pressure on producers and some channels using some private radio stations, electronic media websites and Facebook pages to direct public opinion and manipulate some Ramadan TV productions, exaggerating or underestimating them.
Shadia Khadir, the former director of the second national channel on Tunisian public television, said in a statement to Al-Arab that “Ramadan TV is ready to emerge from the dilemma of consumerism, which has become the direction of Ramadan content. , with a change in production model in the last three years and the emergence of a new generation of directors carrying real art projects.
She continues, “We have seen this tendency to avoid the market economy in many Arab countries with long traditions of television production, such as Egypt, Syria and to a lesser extent Tunisia and the Gulf states. It’s an orientation that stems from a fundamental issue. “
Khedir – who currently holds the position of head of the cultural programming unit on Tunisian public television – sees the saying “the audience wants this” as the producers and those in charge of the television channels have been falsified. It is a statement that digital media and social media have lied to, as the audience has become part of the production process and contributes to changing and modifying its content through the feature of interaction, opinion and boycott calls offered by social media.
The risk of confusion of media and commercial content in the minds of viewers was embodied in the tyrannical commercial consumer approach to TV Ramadan.
Khedir insists on the need for public media to play its role in protecting media content and the public from the risk of television subjecting itself to the logic of profit and loss in accordance with the basis of commercial supply and demand, especially in countries that rely mainly on productions. their local to equip the programming networks of their television stations, such as Egypt and Tunisia. These are almost the same countries that have witnessed political transformations over the past decade, which they believe have been relatively successful in establishing democratic institutions, but seem to have failed to produce a democratic television that reflects public diversity and diversity. of its tastes.
In the end, as the former director of Tunisian TV sees it, there is not an audience, but a variety of audiences. So it is unreasonable for all of them to accept what the TV channels show with the same consumer greed and to submit to lucrative commercialism, even if it relates to Ramadan, the month of consumption par excellence.