Upcoming Lebanese Doom: Hassan Nasrallah “Hosted” on Basmeit Watan

You can see it now, the headlines of tomorrow: riot spreads across the land… because of a caricaturization.

LBC has guts. They’ve been expanding their forte over the past several months with excellent reporting and productions. They have now set the bar higher for everyone else once again by doing something that they did a while back to some grave consequences: they got Hassan Nasrallah to be caricatured on their satire show “Basmeit Watan.” They also mentioned a prophet.

The following is the video of the episode:

Hassan Nasrallah’s supporters have already cut off roads around Beirut in protest.

I guess everyone tunes in when the subject matter is this juicy. I mean, come on, you can smell the drama coming off from hundreds of kilometers away. It’s not like Lebanese mentalities have evolved in the years since Hassan Nasrallah was “hosted” last in order to fathom such caricatures. If anything, the country has gone way backwards in its extremism.

The YouTube comments on the video in question are hilarious. The following is a screenshot:

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I wondered for a while if I just don’t get it. Then I decided that I do. I understand that Hassan Nasrallah is important to his people from a religious perspective, being theoretically a descendent of the prophet Mohammad and whatnot. I understand that a country like Lebanon where religious figures are taken in high regard is not the place to turn those people into satire.

I also know the following. Mr. Nasrallah is as active on the political scene as any other major Lebanese politician, if not more. Mr. Nasrallah is much more active politically and militarily in the Lebanese setting than any other politician and religious person in the country. Mr. Nasrallah is also the head of a party that is not, as its name claims, holy. Why should he get the prerogative that others do not get? Where do you draw a line that should not be drawn when it comes to criticism?

No Lebanese public figure should be above being portrayed in a show such as Basmeit Watan. No Lebanese public figure is holy enough not to be criticized. No Lebanese figure that toys with our lives in any way whatsoever gets to be put on a pedestal, as far as I’m concerned, and kept there until God knows when.

I couldn’t care less if Basmeit Watan or any other show portray the Pope, the Patriarch, my non-existent favorite politician or anyone else. What I do care about is that there are people in my country who think a silly TV show is enough reason for them to take it to the streets, do riots, cut roads and cause mayhem. What I do care about is the fact that the country has not changed one bit between Nasrallah 1.0 and Nasrallah 2.0. What I do care about is the fact that, in 2013, people still think holding religious office makes you immune to any form of criticism.

What’s sad is that our Lebanese priorities are reflected in the riots taking place today over a silly TV show instead of what actually counts. It’s sad that there are people who think Basmeit Watan portraying Nasrallah makes LBC an “Israeli Jewish parasite.” It’s sad that there are people who think such a portrayal is somehow a victory for Israel. Such logical fallacies exist in Lebanon, it seems.

Hezbollah, how about you take your men off the streets? Isn’t there some war we shouldn’t be fighting in to take part of? Isn’t there some government that should be formed but isn’t? Isn’t there a country that should not be run to the ground and have its streets cut off and liberties killed off in vain?

Lebanon To Get Its First HD TV Channel Tonight With LBC

LBC HD Logo

 

I was recently invited to a meeting with LBC officials who discussed with us their future plans for Lebanon’s leading TV station. One of those plans was an ambitious undertaking that involved flipping the switch on one aspect of Lebanese TV that is, as of now, completely obscure to almost all of us: HD TV.

Even though most of our TV sets are now equipped with the ability to handle such standards, none of our TV stations offered them. This will change tonight with LBC offering an HD TV channel for its viewers, which will be accessible through the following frequencies via LBC Blogs:

Digitek HD & SD formats: Frequency 12420 – Symbol rate 28175 – Polarization = vertical.

Econet HD & SD formats: Frequency 12480 – Symbol rate 31250 – Polarization = horizontal.

Perhaps it’s a shame that we’re just getting around to this technology in 2013 when it’s been around for a long time in most countries we look up to. However, I still maintain that when it comes to media, Lebanon is a pioneer in the region. And we have set the bar for our media pretty high so anything less than optimal reporting gets immediately bashed (link). Despite some gaffs here and there, I still believe what many of our outlets have to offer regional offerings in quality, though that’s not saying much since standards around here are pretty low. Hopefully other TV stations – or just the ones I watch when I have time – follow suit soon.

I’d have liked to have such a channel launch happen in a week where LBC didn’t mess up with their most recent Kalam Ennas episode (link) but I can’t be too picky. The channel will launch tonight following the start of Star Academy’s new season. Blast from the past anyone?

How Can I Get Credible News in Lebanon?

Q: How do you know a person’s political/sectarian/whatever affiliation?

A: Just look at the news they read/watch/get exposed to.

With near 12 hour shifts at the hospital, I’m having less and less time to be exposed to all different news sources in order to get the gist of what’s happening in this country. For a while, this didn’t bother me. I figured the less I know about current politics, the better. My parents were also happy I wasn’t going to get myself in trouble.

The sentiment didn’t last long. You just can’t logically remain disconnected from what’s happening here. Many Lebanese people are in the same boat: they don’t have time to read different sources and settle for one.

It was either I settle for the rhetoric that I enjoyed the most and made me sleep better at night, like a lot of people out there, or I simply don’t. I chose the latter. So I subscribed to a bunch of news services that sent me daily bulletins. Some send these bulletins several times per day as an agglomeration of articles from different sources. It eventually became a habit of mine to click on the flashy headlines, read the first few sentences and try to guess the source. I have an accuracy rate north of 95%. Move over Layla Abdul Latif. Is that how it’s supposed to be?

The other day, a friend of mine sent me something he figured I should write about: a former MP cutting down parts of the Cedar forest for his son’s wedding. I scanned through the article and then checked the source. It was Al-Akhbar, a newspaper that had that very same day turned a “scoop” they got of Samir and Sethrida Geagea allegedly divorcing into one of the worst articles I have ever read.  I immediately dismissed the news. I wasn’t going to touch that with a ten foot pole. The following day, the news turned out to be true because it was reported with pictures by several other sources.

Our news services rehash news in different ways when it’s a slow day and they’re bored. On August 4th, MTV reported on a “quarrel” in Tripoli during a public iftar at Al-Nour roundabout using the same material they used in a report from March 12th of that same year.

When it comes to  Tripoli, our news reporting was as horrible as it goes as well. When the fights were new, they were all over them. Then they got bored – and they figured everyone else should be bored as well. So they stopped reporting. Despite nights during which 1000s of mortar shells were dropped on the city, our media remained silent.  My friends had thought the worst thing happening in the country at that time was the electoral law debate. And, in the off-chance that they actually report something, they make it sound like the city is the Lebanese brand of Kandahar, in its own mood of civil war.

On April 1st, MTV ran with some news that was their take on April Fools. Other news services in the country didn’t bother double-checking and simply jumped on the story. As their attempt to save face later on, they said they contacted several entities in order to double check and whatnot. Odds are they didn’t. But who cares? There’s no accountability when it comes to our news anyway.

How does MTV report oil prices going up? “Gebran Bassil has raised oil prices.” How do they report them going down? “Oil prices have gone down.”

How does OTV report the same thing? “Oil prices have gone up; Gebran Bassil has brought oil prices down.”

How does Future TV refer the Syrian regime? “Shabbi7at el Assad.

How does Al-Manar address the Free Syrian Army? They are eaters of hearts, brains and other body parts.

How does a newspaper like Al-Diyar still exist? I don’t know.

How can I get the news without doubting every single sentence that I read? How can I get the non-editorialized and sensationalized version of all the pieces that should inform me about what’s happening in this country? How can I get news intros that are not written in an Arabic language whose words hold twenty five different meanings in each letter?

I can’t.

Nemr Abou Nassar vs LBCI

A lot of people absolutely adored Nemr Abou Nassar’s recent 20 minute rant against LBC and the situation in Lebanon that LBC somehow represents through their misrepresentation of an award show.

After all, aren’t the best kinds of pep talks those carried about by people financially better than 95% of the Lebanese population and with a second nationality to fall back on, just in case?

LBC has now replied to Mr. Nassar with what I think is an absolutely brilliant example of professionalism. For the first time, you have a Lebanese TV station acknowledging a mistake happening and taking the blame for it. Now LBC, my hat is off to you.

Hello Everyone,

Many of you rightfully expect LBCI’s transparent and honest answer to Mr. Abou Nassar’s video.

Like most would agree, LBCI succeeded in exporting Lebanon to the world with unparalleled levels of professionalism. This did not happen by coincidence or magic, but as the result of the perseverant work of hundreds of professionals. And it happened because we believe in our country, in its talents, and in all men and women dedicating themselves for Lebanon, whom we reassure of our unwavering support.

We do not (thank God!) pretend to be perfect. Mistakes happen with all corporations, and we believe the successful institutions are those who draw lessons to avoid repeating them. Let us be clearer: LBCI takes full responsibility of the mishaps that took place and regrets their impact on all the people involved. We salute the efforts of Dr. Sfeir and For Lebanon and sincerely hope that our apologies will be accepted.

The performance, which is not reflective of our standards, was due to the fact that the filming was outsourced in all good faith by LBCI to an external team, which did not perform up to expectations. Again, we are not trying to put the blame on someone else as we fully acknowledge our lack of proper selection. And we are willing to do everything possible to repair the harm that was inadvertently made.

What is an unforeseen sub-performance should not be dealt with as a premeditated wrongdoing, or as a hidden agenda targeting local talents. Though we fully understand the frustration, linking this incident to malevolent intentions is taking things out of proportion. We cannot stress enough how much LBCI supports Lebanese talents from all genres and languages and our track record in this case cannot be brushed aside because of a blunder. An unjust accusation cannot be an answer to a non-premeditated mistake.

Many people can testify that LBCI has broken many partnerships with organizers who did not abide by our standards in term of respecting the people attending the event, thus speaking of intentional sabotage is simply not an option. Criticizing what is wrong is what we do, and we support numerous points that Mr. Abou Nassar has raised, but we are against dramatized criticism which turns into a witch hunt.

We hope that a new page will be opened, and that we will continue to collaborate with all our valued talents to serve our common cause which is Lebanon, as we are all fighting in the same ranks. Mr. Abou Nassar ensured a good coverage for the event and helped in clearing the organizers’ reputation which we also hold dear. We join our voice to his to also thank them for their efforts, hoping to put this unintentional incident behind us

If only other institutions in this country can be this professional in the way they handle criticism.

LBC’s New TV Show: Splash!

I get competition shows that are centered around singing or dancing. I may not be a fan or watch them but at least I can fathom their premise.

Then comes Splash! also known as LBC is really desperate for a hit TV show à la Dancing With The Stars.

The TV show will start this coming Sunday. It has been adopted from the UK version which ranked only #16 weekly among British TV shows. Not impressive at all. And yet Splash! is here.

A few Lebanese celebrities will be competing against each other in diving. That’s what the show is all about. Lame? You bet. Silly? An even surer guess. What’s the point? I guess it’s still better than airing AUD’s graduation ceremony on Sunday, Roula Saad – Star Academy’s person – has been without a TV show for a while now and there will be public voting, obviously. Money, money, money!
And there’s of course seeing Nancy Afiouny in a bikini. I sure want to see her meow, meow. If you know what I mean.

The candidates, also known as celebrities whose days have passed and want a career reboot, include:
– Nancy Afiouny
– Nelly Makdessy
– Arze Chidiac
– Antoinette Akiki
– Katia Keady
– Nicole Tohme
– Rita Hayek
– Laurette Hnayno
– Elie Massaad
– Salah Tizani
– Rodolphe Hilal
– Naser Abou Lafy
– Sevag Demerjian
– Wajih Saker
– Silvio Chiha

Yes, I have no clue what most of those “celebrities” do and yes, there will definitely be cannonballs.

Our TV stations are adamant about bringing growingly lamer TV shows from abroad just to create some buzz. Will you be watching Splash!?
Somehow the thought of most of those people doing twirls before they splash everyone is getting less and less appealing by the second.

Thank you @Joseph__Saade for the info.

MTV, OTV & LBC’s Sunday Programming: The Graduation Ceremony of the American University of Dubai

Graduation ceremonies are horrible. My AUB 2010 ceremony felt endless. Names upon names got called out as we sat there sweating like pigs under the June sun. I’d never do it again. But Lebanon’s TV stations felt it was a good idea to air a graduation ceremony all Sunday afternoon.

Except there was nothing Lebanese about the graduation. AUD, I had no idea you mattered to MTV, LBC & OTV this much. Let’s label this one big fat failure of TV programming. I don’t care what’s the reason behind those three TV stations airing the American University of Dubai’s graduation. There is no reason that can make this remotely acceptable – not when Lebanese universities have countless graduations every year which go unnoticed, unaired and, well, irrelevant. Not that graduation ceremonies should air on live TV anyway.

How empty is the Sunday afternoon slot on Lebanese TV exactly?

I bet those students of AUD feel nice to be appreciated. By Lebanese TV stations. Lebanese students, on the other hand, are not classy enough. Not even those who pay thousands of dollars to attend Lebanon’s brand of Ivy League campuses, let alone those whose university is – lowers voice into a barely audible whisper – free.

Update: Apparently this is the FIFTH year they air this. Hopefully it’s the last as well.

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Saad Hariri To Be On Kalam Ennas on January 31st

Saad Hariri

Lebanon’s most famous invisible/disappeared man is preparing a comeback. And it starts in 10 days.

Marcel Ghanem’s TV show on LBC will be the first political talk show in months (maybe even a year) to host the former prime minister of the country and the head of one of its largest parties who left the country soon after the January 2011 coup not to be heard of or seen again.

Don’t worry though – Saad Hariri wasn’t in grave danger in his self-exile in Paris, unless you count that broken leg skiing on the French (or was it Swiss?) Alps. Throughout the past two years, Hariri has gradually but surely decreased his presence all around even on Twitter following not one (click here) but two (click here) gaffs on social media.

Either way, the episode should be quite interesting. I, for one, hope it wasn’t part of an exclusive deal aiming to get viewers without tackling any serious questions. With the tricky situation the country is going through, Marcel Ghanem better be ready to grill Saad Hariri about what he has been up to these past two years and what he intends to do in the coming months.

I’m sure everyone wants to know.

Will you be watching? The whole country will.