Posted by Rawan Elbaba on February 19, 2016 in Blog
This Saturday, Egypt will be welcoming a new television show. But this isn’t another Arabic melodrama, this is a show that has made its way to the Arab world from a few continents over. A country that is known for its film, music and theatrical industries, is even more recognized for its citizens’ sense of humor and comedy.
The hit American show, Saturday Night Live, has contracted the television channel OSN to be the official home for Saturday Night Live Arabic. Many famous and well-known actors such as Donia Samer Ghanem will be making star appearances. Another familiar face from the banned and exiled Al Bernameg with Bassem Youssef show, Shadi Alfons, will be a regular on the new weekly comedy. When news first broke that SNL Arabic will be filmed in Egypt back in October 2015, rumors began to spread that Bassem Youssef himself would be the host of the show. But to the disappointment of Bassem’s fans, these rumors were quickly squashed. Youssef is rumored to be hosting a new US based show on the upcoming 2016 Presidential elections.
In a rather ironic turn of events, what was once frowned upon and deemed inappropriate in Youssef’s show, is now finding its way back to Egypt. This has left many asking what makes SNL Arabic different from Al Bernameg and how will the show keep its style of edgy humor from enflaming political sensitivities in Egypt? On a note of caution, OSN's CEO David Butorac said, “In every region of the world, it’s important that broadcasters ensure their content is socially acceptable to the broadcast environment they are broadcasting in. We will ensure that whatever we do is appropriate for the region.
The issue of censorship is not new to Egyptian society, from Mubarak to Sisi, media personalities and journalists have been shut down, sent into exile or arrested for speaking in a way that is considered “against the state.” According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Egypt is the second worst jailer of journalists worldwide. The CPJ also states that President Sisi uses the pretext of national security when censoring and imprisoning journalists for their work.
So with all this, as exciting as it is to be seeing an American staple make its way to the Arab world, one can’t help but wonder…how long will it last?