Censorship & Cultural Attitudes
Entertainment and Cultural Identity

Cultural proximity matters in entertainment preference. Two-thirds of survey participants prefer to watch films that portray their own culture and would like more entertainment to be based on culture and history (65% each). The majority also believes film is an important source about one’s culture (54%). Those from Saudi Arabia feel most strongly about the potential cultural benefits of entertainment and those from Tunisia much less so.

Those eager to preserve their cultural traditions are much more likely than those with less commitment to cultural traditions to watch films that portray their own culture (74% vs. 48%) and to feel more entertainment media should be based on culture and heritage (75% vs. 41%).

Consistent with their lower level of support for preserving their cultural traditions, those with the lowest levels of income and education are also less likely to desire a closer connection of entertainment to their culture.

Across almost all media – film, television, music and online content – respondents are more likely to consume content from the MENA region, and their own country in particular, than content from any other part of the world. Whether this is due to preference or the practical matter of availability is unknown, but Arab-produced content clearly dominates.

The gap between consumption of indigenous Arab content versus other content is most pronounced for television – more than eight in ten watch content from the MENA region, while one-third watch programming from outside the region. Comparatively, about three-fourths watch films from the Arab world with an almost equal number watching films from outside the region (71%), primarily from the United States (47%).

Consumption of Entertainment Content by Region: All Respondents

 

Television

Music

Film

Online Content

Inside MENA Region

83%

80%

78%

72%

One’s country of residence

74%

70%

60%

59%

Outside MENA Region

37%

45%

71%

50%

United States

17%

27%

47%

32%

Egyptians, Lebanese and Tunisians are far more likely to consume all kinds of media entertainment from the MENA region than those in Gulf states. However, this is likely due partly to the ethnic composition in Gulf countries. Among nationals in the Gulf states, nearly all (more than nine in ten) consume films, television, music and online content from the MENA region.

People in the six countries are most likely to watch and enjoy films and television from the MENA region, but many also report enjoying content from outside the region. Arabs – nationals and expats – also feel strongly that films (and television) produced in the region give a much more accurate portrayal of life and people in the Arab world and are better for morality than those from outside the region. In fact, they are more likely to say films from outside the region are harmful for morality than good for morality. 

  • Eight in ten Arabs enjoy Arab films (82%), and 43% enjoy US (Hollywood) films; 78% feel Arab films accurately portray Arabs and 24% feel US (Hollywood) films do (35% feel Hollywood’s portrayal of Arabs is inaccurate); 69% feel Arab films are good for morality and 15% feel US (Hollywood) films are good for morality, with 34% who feel US (Hollywood) films are harmful for morality. Four in ten Arabs believe European films are harmful to morality (40%). 

Asian and Western expats are more likely to enjoy US (Hollywood) films than Arab material, and they are more likely to say US (Hollywood) films are more accurate and better for morality than Arab content. 

  • Among Western expats, 22% enjoy Arab films and 87% enjoy US (Hollywood) films; 20% feel Arab films accurately portray Arabs and 82% feel US (Hollywood) films do; and 20% feel Arab films are good for morality and 75% feel US (Hollywood) films are good for morality.
  • Among Asian expats, 14% enjoy Arab films and 66% enjoy US (Hollywood) films; 13% feel Arab films accurately portray Arabs and 54% feel US (Hollywood) films do; and 14% feel Arab films are good for morality and 46% feel US (Hollywood) films are good for morality.