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Game of Thrones taken off air due to nudity

Viewers were left with blank screens after Etisalat cut broadcast of the sexually explicit TV show midway through transmission.

A broadcaster has pulled the plug on a sexually explicit American TV series over scenes of nudity it claims breach UAE law.

An episode of Game of Thrones was cut midway through transmission on Monday evening after Etisalat, which runs the eVision television service, deemed it unsuitable.

Viewers were left with blank screens after the show was pulled off air, with many angry at the lack of explanation for the cut.

Game of Thrones, a medieval fantasy series created for the US network HBO, features explicit nudity, graphic sex scenes and swearing.

The second series of the show is airing on the OSN First channel, broadcast by the Dubai-based Orbit Showtime Network.

It was broadcast with minimal editing on OSN's satellite service, which is transmitted across the Middle East and North Africa, and via du's television service in the UAE.

But OSN channels are also carried by Etisalat's eVision service.

Humaid Al Suwaidi, the chief executive of eVision, confirmed the show was dropped due to its explicit nature.

"Those shows are not really suitable for the family because of the nudity scenes," he said. "This is a decision as per the prevailing law in the country."

Mr Al Suwaidi said Etisalat cuts inappropriate content in numerous ways, including replacing entire programmes and blanking out the screen, as was the case with Game of Thrones.

"Whenever there is nudity, we don't show it to our viewers because we respect our viewers," he said.

But some viewers objected to what they deemed inconsistent censorship by Etisalat.

One western expatriate in Abu Dhabi said the broadcaster had shown the first series of Game of Thrones, plus shows such as Rome and The Sopranos, which also feature graphic content.

"There's been nudity, sex and violence all the way through the series," said the expatriate, who did not wish to be named. "You either show it or you don't. They've got to decide the threshold of tolerance for all this stuff."

The viewer said he called Etisalat to complain and was initially told that there was a problem with his TV set-top box. After several calls to Etisalat, he was eventually told that the broadcast had been cut.

"What annoyed me was the manner in which it was pulled off and the lack of communication with customers," he said. "Why don't they put a message on the screen saying it's blocked? Why not be straight about it?"

Levels of censorship vary greatly among Middle East broadcasters.

Etisalat's rival, du, said it had not blocked Game of Thrones.

"We do not block any OSN content, as users subscribe to their pay TV channels to view certain programmes," said a spokesman. "We offer [a] parental control facility to our TV viewers through which customers are empowered to block TV content such as Game of Thrones on their own."

OSN makes only minimal cuts to series or films broadcast on its own channels. But many free-to-air broadcasters, such as MBC, heavily censor content.

Matt Duffy, an assistant professor of journalism at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi, said he was "surprised" by some of the shows aired by OSN. "I've seen stuff on OSN that wouldn't get through on American cable networks," said Mr Duffy. "OSN seems to almost have a European-style approach as to what is permissible."

In November, MBC - the Arab world's biggest TV network - apologised for accidentally screening a film that contained nudity.

MBC, based in Dubai, said it mistakenly broadcast a unedited version of the movie Into The Wild on its MBC Max channel. The broadcast, which coincided with the Eid holiday, prompted many viewers to call for a boycott of the station.

 

bflanagan@thenational.ae

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