The Social and Political Dimensions of Global Television Formats: Reality Television in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia

Marwan M. Kraidy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


When scholars and policy makers contemplate the Arab “media revolution, " they mostly think of Al-Jazeera and its news competitors. They are guided by the assumption that all-news satellite television networks are the predominant, even the single, shaper of the Arab public sphere, a perspective exacerbated by the September 11, 2001 attacks. Drawing on a larger work (Kraidy, 2009, forthcoming), this chapter presents an alternative view, emphasizing instead the combined impact of Arab entertainment television and small media such as mobile phones on Arab governance. It explores how entertainment television is an active contributor to shaping what Arab publics discuss and do in both the social and political realms. As local (in this case regional/pan-Arab, reaching two dozen Arabic-speaking countries) adaptations of global television formats, Arab reality television shows exhibit a combination of signs and practices from several worldviews. As such, this chapter will show how Arab reality shows are open to multiple processes of appropriation and redeployment. Though numerous scholars have for years studied the differentiated “reception” of television texts in various contexts, this chapter focuses specifically on television formats in a context of growing media convergence and protracted political instability and social upheaval. Specifically, it focuses on reality television’s social and political impact, which stems primarily from its activation of new communication processes between a variety of information and media technologies creating what I call “hypermedia space.” In the new Arab information order, reality television activates hypermedia space because it promotes participatory practices like voting, campaigning and alliance building, via mobile telephones and related devices.1.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationGlobal Television Formats
Subtitle of host publicationUnderstanding Television Across Borders
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781135889517
ISBN (Print)9780415965446
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • General Arts and Humanities


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