MTV Arabia Localization

MTV continues its localization strategy, this time with MTV Arabia. The channel started broadcasting this weekend. “The region is attractive because it’s awash in petrodollars and two-thirds of the population is under 25.” according to BusinessWeek, adding “Middle Eastern youth may not agree with U.S. politics, but they can’t get enough of Western music and fashion.”

This is bound to be a popular channel, and “the first Arabic youth lifestyle channel will air locally produced programs, as well as international imports such as “Pimp My Ride” and “Cribs” , which should prove popular in the car and property-obsessed Gulf.” However, this move is still bound to face serious geocultural challenges, highlighting regional social and political issues that may not be so “cool”, as pointed out by the Financial Times.

MTV Arabia logo referenced from Wikipedia. All rights acknowledged.

A local “rapper” (whatever that is) informs us “that “Hip-hop is a movement, a form of expression that has long been denied the youth of the Arab world… rather than the “booty” and “bling” fixation of American rap music, however, their lyrics reflect topics such as the importance of education.” The MTV bosses are keen to emphasize that respect for local culture is a central broadcasting tenet from the get-go:

“MTV Arabia will tailor content for the conservative audiences of the Gulf, using the context of each video clip to judge its suitability. “A woman in a bikini is OK on a beach, but maybe not in the bedroom . . common sense will play a role.”

The words “wardrobe malfunction” immediately come to mind.

I’d prefer to wait and see it for myself. You can read more about such issues in the Oct/Nov 2007 issue of Multilingual. Read what Tom Edwards has to say about geocultural literacy, and John Freivald’s article on the U.S. rebranding of an unpopular war.

Ultan Ó Broin
Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally. Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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