TV Talk Shows in Arab Region Need to Abide by Conscience and Ethical Standards

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Free Media, Free Wrestling Session at the Arab Media Forum 2012

Audience Growing Wary of Talk Shows that Degenerate into Patterns of Verbal or Physical Violence, Concur Arab Media Forum Panellists

Dubai-UAE: 9 May, 2012 – TV talk shows in the Arab region need to strike a balance between encouraging a fervent debate among guests in a bid to attract audiences and abiding by the code of ethics and their own conscience, according to experts during the final session of the 11th Arab Media Forum (AMF 2012).

The panellists admitted that most viewers are drawn to talk shows for their entertainment value that such overheated debate brings, while its value as a platform that promotes dialogue is often side-lined. It was also pointed out that talk shows which habitually degenerate into verbal abuse and wrestling matches may eventually serve to alienate audiences.

Titled ‘Free Media and Free Wrestling’, the session highlighted changes in the language and the violent approach that is increasingly being adopted by the media during on-air conversations.

Moderated by Saad Al Ajmi, Former Minister of Information, Kuwait, the session was headlined by Mona Al Bahar, Professor of Social Science, UAE. Badria Al Beshr, writer, Saudi Arabia; Samir Farah, anchor, BBC Arabic, UK; Laila Rostom, media personality, Egypt, and Wael El Ebrashy, media personality, Egypt.

Stressing that violence has no place in the building of constructive dialogue, Mona Al Bahar said: “Violence is non-dialogue and a poor example to the youth. Instead of promoting a culture where listening to divergent opinions is a sign of maturity, talk shows that feature violence do not accomplish anything of value and, in fact, inhibit dialogue.”

Badria Al Beshr pointed out that while it was normal for talk shows to act as a platform to showcase differing, even conflicting opinions, resorting to trading insults and aggression is counterproductive. He added: “Freedom for the media must not be misconstrued as an opportunity to break the limits of decorum.”

Samir Farah said that talk shows in the Arab region are transitioning towards a time when more mature dialogue would be featured. “We are yet to develop a culture where we listen to the viewpoints of others, and even agree to disagree. A TV talk show cannot resort to inflammatory tactics to elevate the level of dialogue. Red lines that draw racial slurs, personal attacks and baseless accusations are not the way. Anchors that instigate violence should not be condoned.”

Laila Rostom added that alternative viewpoints on talk shows are opportunities for acceptance and enrichment: “Dialogue has always existed on TV and is part of our daily lives. There is a difference between physical and intellectual violence. We need to embrace the concept that a person has the right to ask and question, to know alternative views in an atmosphere of openness.”

Wael El Ebrashy said: “It is natural that several different opinions will spark friction. But this should be contained and not allowed to develop into an explosive situation. It is unrealistic to expect calm and peaceful dialogue. In fact, it is the duty of talk show hosts to ask critical questions in an attempt to marshal a lively conversation. Audiences are looking for excitement and entertainment, but to go overboard and let it spill into a domain of violence is unwise.”

Themed ‘Arab Media: Exposure and Transition’, the 11th Arab Media Forum is a two-day event that has drawn the participation of regional and international journalists, as well as influential decision makers, opinion leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators.

In the run up to AMF 2012, Dubai Press Club released the key findings of the fourth Arab Media Outlook, providing projections for the regional media sector up to 2015. Every attendee to AMF 2012 has been handed a copy of the report.

The Arab Media Forum has garnered year-on-year success through the past 10 editions, validating Dubai and the UAE’s ability to host such high-profile events that draw a significant international media presence.

About AMF:
The Arab Media Forum is the Middle East’s most prominent media event every year. Beginning in 2001 and organized by the Dubai Press Club under the patronage of H.H.Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the Forum has consistently tried to facilitate in-depth debates and exchange of ideas on the media in the region. www.arabmediaforum.ae.

About DPC:
Dubai Press Club (DPC) is the Arab world’s preeminent media development organization. Established in 1999 as per the directives of H.H.Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the Club has evolved over a period of one eventful decade into the most sought after platform for heads of state, eminent government officials, intellectuals, writers and other dignitaries to reach out to the media and communicate their message. It offers unparalelled services to its journalist members. It has played a pioneering role in the development of the Arab media through a host of media development initiatives, the most vital among them being the Arab Media Forum, the Arab Journalism Award and the Arab Media Outlook. www.dpc.org.ae.

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