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Saudi TV investors warned on offensive programmes

world Updated: Aug 16, 2009 20:40 IST

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Saudi investors in satellite television stations cause offence to their country by allowing material that violates Islamic teachings to be aired, a government official was quoted as saying on Sunday.

Earlier this month, two offices of the Lebanon-based network LBC were closed in the kingdom after it broadcast an interview with a Saudi man speaking about his sexual adventures.

Mazen Abdul-Jawad, 32, faces trial after shocking Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and one of the most conservative countries in the world, with details of his sexual exploits.

In remarks published in Saudi newspapers on Sunday, Abdullah al-Jasser, undersecretary for media affairs at the Culture and Information Ministry, did not identify any channel or investor and did not directly refer to the case.

Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is the biggest shareholder in LBC, whose programming is tailored to liberal societies in other Arab states such as Lebanon.

"Every Saudi investor in satellite television channels has to be sensitive to patriotic and social responsibility," Jasser was quoted as saying.

"Managers of these channels should be selected for their integrity and responsibility", he said, adding that investors should not "leave management to people who have orientations and ideas ... harmful to the kingdom and to Saudi investments".

"What is being aired by these channels owned by Saudi citizens in terms of topics that violate the Islamic creed and public morals represents a serious offence to the kingdom and to every citizen," he said.

"These channels (must) not be used as a bridge for hostile media campaigns that ... market Western ideas and beliefs."

The world's Muslim community looked up to Saudi Arabia because it hosted millions of pilgrims every year who visited Islam's holiest sites in Mecca and Medina, Jasser said.

Besides LBC, Prince Alwaleed holds a substantial stake in Rotana, which runs several satellite channels that broadcast entertainment programmes that focus on Arabic music videos.

Another major Saudi investor in satellite television is Saleh Kamel, who owns Arab Radio and Television.

Like many Muslim countries, Saudi Arabia prohibits sexual content on television, newspapers, magazines and books.