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euronews reporter : Turkish TV - a device for social change in the Arab world?

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Published on Jun 29, 2012

http://www.euronews.com/ The 'Arab Spring' has changed several political regimes in the Middle East, shaping modern culture in the Arab World. With Turkey's political influence on the up throughout the Middle East, how much sway does the country's TV and movie exports hold?

"'Forbidden Love,' 'Mohanad and Samar'...There is another one 'Falling Leaves', I like them a lot." Auhood, an Iraqi tourist told euronews

People from all over the Arab world have been flocking to Istanbul in their droves, but why? Thousands have descended on the capital because of the growing phenomenon Turkish TV series are having in the Arab world.

Jordanian Tourist Ahmad said: "I watched some Turkish series and movies like Sakarya Fırat and Murat Alemdar (Murat Alemdar is a character in a series). He (Murat) did a great series about Palestine. I consider him a hero."

Dubbed into Arabic, Turkish Television series have become a must-see throughout the Middle East.

According to the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation, people from the Middle East are becoming increasingly more affected by Turkish culture.


The research shows that 74 percent of people from the Middle East, in 16 countries, watch at least one Turkish-produced series and most of them can name one or more Turkish actors.

So what is it about these programmes that have struck a chord with so many?


"(What you see in this series is) you can be Muslim and you can be modern. They show that part of life now (that) some of the Arabic people (are) deprived of: technology, nice living, modern life. They show the part of life that we dont have in some of our countries." Said Auhood, an Iraqi tourist.


"It (the series) shows all the Muslim people can be open minded, open life, they can have modern life style." Adds Asma, from Egypt.


With taboo-breaking scenes that include pre-martial sex, love triangles and nudity, Turkish TV series have been dubbed 'immoral' by some religious authorities in the Middle East and in some cases, they have even been banned. Despite some opposition however, Turkey has become a TV production powerhouse, and a wave of Turkish stars are given the red carpet treatment throughout the Middle East.


The big boom came in 2006, when MBC, an Arabic language channel bought the rights to the Turkish soap opera 'Forbidden Love'. However, even the show's producers could not believe their luck, when audience figures reached 85 million.

İrfan Şahin the Producer and CEO of
Doğan TV explains:

"Right now, we've sold approximately 50 series to more than 70 countries. At the beginning, we used to sell each episode for 300-500 US dollars. Sometimes we'd even pay them to buy the series....for promotional purposes. Now we have some productions that sell to the Middle East for more than 100 thousand US dollars. There's nothing to stop us becoming a so-called Bollywood. We have the potential."


It is not only the cultural ties between the Middle East and Turkey that explains the success Turkish TV series have had - history also plays a part. For more than 600 years, the Ottoman Empire reigned over some Arab countries and now a big budget series has capitalised on this imperial time.


Turkish state TV TRT splashed out around 5 million euros putting together 'Once Upon a Time in the Ottoman Empire' - making it the most expensive Turkish TV production of all time.


The series has already been sold to a Dubai TV station for 75 thousand US Dollars per episode. Leaving some, but not all Turkish actors with stars in their eyes and dreams of an international career.


Leyla Göksun, a Turkish actress is not one of them:

"Turkish actors and actresses are known globally, they're like an American star in the Middle East. It's true but I think it's not very realistic to think that a Turkish star could make a great international career, especially because of the language barrier. She said.


Tolga Karel, a Turkish Actor thinks otherwise: "I have more than 200 million viewers all over the world. I'm just 33 years old. People even know me in Vietnam. I'm going to Egypt for a shoot and I am learning Arabic. I think in 10-15 years time, Turkey will be called the "Hollywood of the Middle East and the Balkans." He said.

From one popular Turkish production to another - "Valley of the Wolves" is a James Bond'esq drama which has caused somewhat of a diplomatic stir in Israel.


The film version centres on the real life raid by the Israeli army on a Turkish flotilla, after it tried to breach Israel's naval blockade of Gaza in May 2010. The movie's three main characters then take their revenge on the Israeli soldiers.


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