Moroccan TV viewers hope for improved Ramadan programming
Throughout the month of Ramadan, Moroccans spend much of their time watching television. Network representatives have promised an improved season of programmes this year, but viewers remain sceptical.
By Sarah Touahri for Magharebia in Rabat – 28/08/08
With the coming of Ramadan each year, there is a resurgence of interest in national television programming. During this holy month the two official television channels vie with each other to offer Moroccan television viewers a new and appealing schedule of variety shows, sitcoms and mini-series.
Viewers are now eagerly awaiting the new schedule in the hope that this year’s programmes will be of better quality and put an end to improvisation and amateurism.
According to the National Radio and Television Company (SNRT), preparations have been under way for a year to ensure a spectacular viewing season. At the end of Ramadan 2007, SNRT chief executive Faisal Laraichi called on production companies to consult specialists in preparing their proposals and allow enough time finalise their programming.
The SNRT has vowed that the TV schedule for this Ramadan will be of high quality, saying the advisory committee exercised the utmost care in making its selections.
A preliminary breakdown of the schedule published Wednesday (August 27th) by L’Economiste lists the following programmes: “Mbarak ou Massoûd”, a new sitcom inspired by daily life; interviews by Rachid and Hicham of stars including Khaled, Alpha Blondy, Amel Bent and Chimène Badi; the return of sitcom “Sir Hta Dji”, traditional programme “Rommana wa Bartal” and crime drama “Al Qadia”.
Also on offer are sketch comedy shows, musical performances in the Sufi, Malhoun and Aïssaoua styles, and a variety of Moroccan and international cinema. 2M will air an original mini-series, “Les hirondelles reviennent toujours” (The Sparrows Always Return), as well as Moroccan films each Tuesday night: “Wake Up Morocco” by Narjiss Nejjar, “Mémoire en detention” by Jilali Ferhati, “Moroccan Dream” from Jamal Belmejdoub, “Tilila” from Mohamed Mernich and “Les cœurs brûlés” by Ahmed El Maouni.
Despite promises made by officials in the past to cater to all tastes and promote Moroccan shows, the public still criticise the unreliability of presenters and the production mistakes that mar the locally-produced programmes.
Student Samira Boulfatah told Magharebia that television viewers are often “ashamed of Moroccan shows, which patronise Moroccans. The same faces come back every year with almost the same material, even repeating their mistakes.”
“We no longer have any confidence in them and we’d rather watch other Arab channels that don’t insult the viewer’s intelligence,” she said.
Many Moroccans echoed these views in speaking to Magharebia. Viewers do not want repeats of previous programming, and hope to see high-quality Moroccan-made programmes that live up to their expectations.
“Every time, we wait a whole year for new local productions, only to be disappointed,” said civil servant Siham Skali. “We’ve had enough of seeing Abdelkhalek Fahid, Lkhyari and Hassan El Fad, who monopolise the screen during this period. They should give younger people a chance.”
Art critic Mohamed Jabraoui said the problem with Moroccan TV shows is the fact that they are made infrequently. “In Morocco they only produce TV programmes for Ramadan, and for the rest of the year the artists are out of work. Their services are requested only at the last minute, which means they have to improvise, as they don’t get enough time to prepare.”
“A lot of comedians accept poor offers just so that they can get on television, since few opportunities come up; it’s only natural that they give performances that fail to live up to expectations,” he said, adding that other Arab countries pour money into TV shows to ensure that they are successful. For this reason, a number of talented Moroccans go to countries like Syria so they have a greater chance of becoming famous.