Media censorship can be described as a practice where speech or other methods of public communication are considered to be harmful and sensitive or not suitable as determined by the government, media companies or other regulating bodies (West & Turner, 2010). Media censorship has been a common practice in the Arab world, and this has been the case due to cultural and religious influence. Several communication theories have been developed by scholars to try and explain media situations in different countries. This paper seeks to investigate the salient features and applicability of the cultivation communication’s theory to film and television censorship in the UAE (West & Turner, 2010).
Film and television censorship in the United Arab Emirates is intended to promote and preserve political, cultural, and religious beliefs. Evidence gathered through the study of television censorship in the UAE According to Watson, every media item that is intended to be broadcasted to the public must cleared by the National Media council, the country’s media regulation body (2008). Television content and all other types of media, particular from foreign countries, must be subjected checks intended to find too content or topics. Television censorship mainly involves three topics that are regarded to be offensive to practices in the United Arab Emirates. The three include: pornography, material deemed insulting to religion (particularly Islam), and material that criticizes the country’s rulers (Watson, 2008). In most cases only material originating from foreign sources is found to be problematic.
Local television stations have generally conformed to the censorship requirements. Materials from various sources indicate that local films in the treated differently from the foreign films by the National Media Council (NMC) (Wikidot.com, 2008). During the International Film Festival held in Dubai in 2005, many films from Arab countries were subjected to screening and censorship due to violation of Islamic and other cultural views (Wikidot.com, 2008). All Local films presented during the festival were found to be suitable and none was censored. The conformity of local films to religious, political requirements is achieved in various ways.
First, many local film makers are not always in a position to pay for film production. As a result film making requires funding from the Government and other agencies. Censorship is often applied at this stage, as film makers must agree to certain conditions before money is given (Wikidot.com, 2008). Secondly, many local film makers have been raised in a conservative environment that encourages and cultivates conformity to Islamic and political ideals of the UAE. Therefore, they have a way of ensuring that their work is self-censored before it is released into the public domain. They believe in their country and, therefore, cannot produce material that has a potential to affect the country’s religion and political stability (Wikidot.com, 2008).
All foreign films that come into UAE must be studied by the classification board which uses the guideline obtained from the country of origin (Wikidot.com, 2008). Upon classification, the film is dispatched to the film censorship committee, which examines the film carefully and then decides on what is to be removed. The film is then passed on to sub department that removes the areas that have been recommended by the censorship committee (Wikidot.com, 2008). Additionally, no foreign film will be permitted if it has no Arabic subtitle that conforms to the dialogue in the film (Watson, 2008). One of the most recent censorship activities done in the UAE involved renaming of an animation title. The animation’s title was “Puss in the Boots” and was renamed to “Cat in the Boots”. This was also done in Qatar, a gulf state with similar religious values (Salem, 2012, par. 10). Movies that cannot be edited are banned all-together.
For instance, “Mohammed Naser, an official responsible for cinemas in the censorship department explained that when it becomes apparent that the editing required will take a big part of the movie, they conclude that there is no point to release it” (Salem, 2012, par 11). Two movies, Black Swan and Love and Other Drugs were banned because the included a lot of sexual content (Watson, 2008). In most cases, the editing of films that originally contained scenes related to nudity, swearing, political and religious material, the board then asks the agent handing the film to give it a rating of 18 years and over (Salem, 2012).
Traditionally, this requirement has drawn criticism from industry players who feel that the censoring committee should edit the films and allow everyone to watch or leave them as they are and give the +18 rating (Salem, 2012). The film censorship committee is chaired by the National Media Council’s undersecretary who is responsible for censorship activities (Wikidot.com, 2008). The “censorship committee has other members which are drawn from several ministries such as the ministry of education, justice and Islamic affairs, state security, social affairs, interior and Israel boycott office” (Wikidot.com, 2008).
Analysis of the information gathered
The Analysis of television censorship in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will be conducted using the cultivation communication’s theory. Cultivation theory can be described as social theory that examines the long-effects of TV (West & Turner, 2010). The basic proposition of the cultivation theory states that “the more time is spend by people living in the Television world, they more likely they are to believe social reality that is portrayed on the Television” (Morgan & Shanahan, 2010). Cultivation theory was developed by Gross and Gerbner, following extensive research work conducted to establish cultural indicators. The purpose of “cultural indicators” research work was to investigate and establish the cultivated effects of TV on viewers (Morgan & Shanahan, 2010). The investigators were concerned with the implications of TV programs, particularly violent programs on the behaviors and attitudes of Americans.
The cultivation theory clearly indicates that an effect of TV watching on viewers occurs after long-term and cumulative exposure. In the modern world, TV has taken a central position in the lives of many individuals and, therefore, has a greater potential impact on the behaviors and attitudes of viewers. The authors who developed the theory believe that because people TV in the United States and other parts of the world contain significant amount of violence, those watch them addictively often develop an exaggerated belief in the violence (West & Turner, 2010). From the evidence gathered in this paper, it can be stated TV censorship in the UAE is intended to prevent a potential negative influence on citizens. Many videos, particularly those originating from foreign sources, are often laced with content that is not acceptable in the UAE.
The country has a conservative population that strictly observes Islamic religious rules. Additionally, it has a political system that is unique to its position and needs, and therefore, cannot allow material that will directly criticize the established political system. UAE as a nation has progressive laws regarding the freedom of speech but this does not allow for dissemination of material that is contrary to Islamic beliefs or its political establishment. In consistent with the theory of cultivation, the UAE government is aware that films and other shows aired on TV have the potential to change the attitudes and behaviors of the masses (Salem, 2012). Therefore, in its endeavor to retain the country’s religious and cultural values, the government must censor all video material that originates from within and outside the borders.
Conclusion and summary
This research paper sought to use the cultivation theory to establish the how TV and film censorship in the UAE preserves its cultural, political and religious beliefs. It has been established that the country has a conservative population that observes Islamic beliefs that do not agree with the content in most foreign films, and therefore, strict censorship must be conducted before the material is allowed into the public domain. Censorship is also extended to material that contravenes the country’s political establishment.
Morgan, M., & Shanahan, J. (2010). The State of Cultivation. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 54(2), 337-355. Salem, B. (2012, May 13). Censorship: Great for pirates, bad for business. Retrieved December 15, 2012, from Variety Arabia: http://www.varietyarabia.com/Docs.Viewer/6ad7629a-a64a-4cea-9723-01f8f4f68a40/default.aspx Watson, I. (2008, January 22). Dubai’s Media Censors Tackle News, Sex and Politics. Retrieved December 15, 2012, from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=18292869 West, R., & Turner, L. (2010). Introducing Communication theory: Analysis and Application. New York: McGraw Hill. Wikidot.com. (2008, January 10). Censorship: United Arab Emirates . Retrieved December 14, 2012, from