The years have passed by quickly since MBC TV was launched but the journey has not been a smooth one. It was not just an ordinary TV station and it was not established just to fill the gap for entertainment channels or make a profit. When Sheikh Waleed founded it, he had a higher goal, and this is why it was quickly targeted by the arrows of those who refuse modernisation, enlightenment and progress.
Since the first year of its launch in London, the stations’ founder was respected by Arab intellectuals and media personalities because he challenged taboos and dared to exceed boundaries. Now, after twenty five years of the MBC phenomenon, can we say that the desired change has occurred? Yes and no.
After a quarter of a century, we can say that MBC has led change, supported modernisation and has undeniably changed our world for the better. Even those who fight against it as an institution and its ideology acknowledge that it has changed the world, but they complain that it has changed it for the worse. This is a testament to the venerable media institution, not against it. It has taken Arab media from the Stone Age to a wider and more civilised space.
To this day it remains a liberal and civilised window in the Arab world which is closed in on itself and lags behind other countries in terms of development. It is also living evidence that in Saudi Arabia, which is accused of extremism and backwardness, there are individuals and institutions that undertake leading roles to enlighten, change and establish peace in the Middle East. If you visit the group’s main centre in Dubai, you will read the beautiful statement “We see hope everywhere” at the entrance. This is what we need; hope of a better future.
The Arab world is still plagued by conflict and suffering. The success of MBC in reaching millions of Arabs through extraordinary TV broadcasts has also awakened those who refuse to change. When they discovered that they were unable to stop broadcasts from London thanks to satellites, they decided to engage in a broadcasting battle after they promised that TV viewers would go to hell and threatened to break satellite dishes.
Many TV stations promoting social backwardness, political violence and extremist religious ideology have emerged in response to this civilised institution with the aim of stopping progress. During these twenty-five years, we have seen battles between development and backwardness and between progress and staying in the past. During this time, advocates of backwardness and opponents of development have come to realise the threat that the channel, the institution, modern media and modern ideas posed to them and so they decided to confront the channel. There is no doubt that they partially succeeded in slowing down the train of change and enabled extremists to open television stations that compete to manage the minds of 300 million Arabs.
There is no doubt that they have caused many abnormalities in the Arab world and in the whole world, like the birth of terrorist organisations like Al-Qaeda and ISIS. They strengthened the influence of groups that are trying to impose their social model and stop progress. However, history tells us that progress can never be stopped and that they can only hinder it temporarily. Change is a law of God and takes place everywhere on this planet. It will reach our region through MBC and similar channels.
This institution has provided humanitarian and extraordinary models for life, and has brought relations between nations and civilisations closer. It has initiated support for loving homelands to confront fascists and internationalists. Using irony, it has reduced the sanctity of those who impose themselves as authorities, punish the entire community when it disagrees with them, and defied their projects by providing alternative drama series, programmes and dialogues, and using creative characters and ideas.
We must thank Sheikh Waleed and the great army of innovators, who have presented a distinguished, artistic and intellectual model, for twenty five years of development and renewal. With such a foundation, we can look forward to a better future that will transport us from the situation that some people insist on keeping us in.