The global soap opera is a phenomenon that should get much more attention in both film and media studies. TV soaps are primarily the television offspring of traditional cinematic family melodramas, albeit in ‘serial narrative’ form rather than single narratives. Their production flourishes in those countries with a heritage of film production in this genre.
The US and UK, other English-speaking countries (e.g. Australia) and much of Europe have produced soaps for home consumption and exports within their own language markets. The same is true in India (and probably East Asia – can anyone confirm this?). But the interesting development is what global media theorists refer to as the ‘contra-flow’ of exported soap operas outside the American-dominated English-language market. The Latin-American telenovela in Spanish or Portuguese conquered much of Africa and parts of Eastern Europe decades ago, but it has competition from another source – the Arabic-language soaps primarily from Egypt, but according to a recent news report also in dubbed form from Turkey.
Noor is a Turkish soap which when it finished its run was attracting up to 80 million viewers from “Morocco to Palestine” according to the Guardian and which is now promoting tourism from Arab countries to Istanbul. This looks like an effective move into ‘soft power’ as Turkey seeks leadership across the countries of North Africa and Western Asia. It goes well with the recent resurgence of Turkish Cinema. Researching this story, I’m all too well aware of my ignorance of a programme that has become a cultural phenomenon in the Arab world through showings first on the MBC channel.
Here’s a BBC business report on the success of Turkish soaps: