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The Ali Story: Television and how we treat it in the UAE

In this serialised feature, Ali Al Saloom shares his insight and experiences from growing up in the UAE.

So far, it's been a very exciting week. I have just started filming the second season of my Arabic TV show 5 Minutes with Ali, which will be aired on one of our lovely Abu Dhabi TV stations during the upcoming holy month of Ramadan, inshallah. It's always a great feeling when you are filming a programme that contains scenes from various places in your beloved country.

I usually like to focus on three elements on anything I do, whether it's my writing or my TV or radio shows, and that is: culture, tourism and environment. I believe these elements always add value to anyone who receives this kind of content, and personally, it also adds a lot of value to me as well. I just feel so proud every time I can share such a great side of our beloved nation. Providing such valuable content is especially essential for a cross-cultural dialogue with others who live with us and work with us in our country. It is also a great message to the whole world, so they can understand and start to appreciate the beauty of our culture and country.

During the filming, I couldn't stop myself from having flashback memories of my childhood. I remember how, a long time ago, we had some TV programmes that would be showing on our own local TV stations. Everyone from the UAE remembers that we used to have an English channel called Channel 33, which was broadcast from Dubai. Also, we had Abu Dhabi TV, with its famous falcon logo, Dubai TV and a station from Sharjah as well. These TV stations initially focused on showcasing news shows, then Egyptian movies and of course, Bollywood movies. What we enjoyed most were the cartoon shows and the Kuwaiti-produced series, which we always cherished and enjoyed watching with the whole family.

What's so interesting about the TV stations at that time was that some of the Arabic or Bollywood movies would include one or two R-rated scenes maximum. But in general, there weren't any erotic scenes or something that would go against our society's values. As a result, I never, ever had my parents stopping us from watching a TV show, a movie or a cartoon; all of them were peaceful and meaningful and had a good story behind their content. Most of the television provided during those days was really respectful in terms of the content. You could basically tell by the way the actors behaved, what they wore, how they presented themselves, even the story or topics that they actually used, the type of conversations they would have - all of this was very much done in a respectful manner.

Of course, today's TV shows are still exciting and I don't want to be negative at all, but honestly the majority of them do not convey that same politeness and respect as they used to. Whom to blame, I don't know.

All the great media influences coming from all over the globe have multiplied and diversified our TV stations. Nowadays, we are faced with a type of content that reveals a lot of the skin, is weird and encourages acts of crime instead of acts of peace. Some people will actually come up to you and claim that this is what the market wants, but truly I have no idea what market they're talking about, because these aren't things that we want to see or want to watch with our children.

As soon as the different types of programmes started to kick in, all of a sudden we had Mexican soap operas. When these soap operas came on our TV, we had around 100 episodes right away. One of the oldest was a show called Maria Mercedes. I still remember that one. It was amazing, and later on we started receiving the Turkish soap operas, which made a big impression on the Gulf. It just influenced so many of the Arabs to even visit Turkey. And today, we have the new Asian trend you guessed it! South Korea, which is growing in our Arab society like a flood.

I see my mother today telling her grandchildren: "You shouldn't watch this stuff." She actually complained about it, although she never complained when I was a child. Preventing children from viewing things they shouldn't watch is really a battle.

If there is anything from the past that I would like to use and implement today, then it would be providing great content for a whole family to watch and enjoy. Hence, I pray that my new TV shows will win over both the elderly and the young generation; a good balance is what I keep hoping for all the time. The show is for any viewer who would want to watch it and yet it doesn't offend anybody's culture because it is simply based on respect and good content for everyone. I'm a parent today and I want to be a role model for my children. Other people's children should watch me and watch this kind of content that is respectful, just like the TV programmes used to be.

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