Teen channel to court controversy ‘tastefully'

A new channel for Arabic teenagers is promising to tackle controversial issues on air.

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By  James Thornton Published  March 9, 2001

The first ‘youth’ channel for the region, seems set to emulate Al Jazeera, with controversial content. The new channel, Zen TV has been launched in the UAE aimed at becoming a forum for young Arabs to express themselves freely. Zen TV will be run by young people and aimed at the youth market, which makes up 65 percent of the Arab population.

The new channel is the result of a joint venture between Lebanon's Future TV and Dubai Media City, and will eventually be broadcast across the whole Arab world. The format of Zen TV will reflect the interests, thoughts and anxieties of youngsters in the modern world.
However, concerns have already arisen over how the channel will tackle the sensitive, so called 'red line' topics such as sexuality and religion, though Zen TV insists that these issues will be discussed "openly" yet "tastefully".

"We are dealing with new territory," said Dr. Nadim Al Munla, chairman of Future TV and Zen TV. "We do not claim to have the answers, but we do believe that there is a need to start dialogue on a great many issues. We might cross the 'red line' and discuss these issues in an open way, but not in a way to disrespect our heritage."
"You can switch on your television today and 200 channels from Showtime to Orbit, and you will see that the 'red line' has already been crossed," said Saeed Al Muntafiq, chief executive officer, Dubai Media City.

Zen TV provides a perfect example of the DMC's objective to encourage more UAE nationals to get involved with the local and Arab media industry. By involving locals at a young age in broadcasting is seen as a good way of introducing them to the fast-growing industry.
"Television programming for youngsters at the moment is more often than not determined by adults, but where Zen will differ is that it will be a television channel for the youth by the youth," said Al Muntafiq.

The big switch-on of the channel at the Media City saw popular artists such as Ragheb Alameh, Assi Hellani and Muhammed El Mazem hosting the festivities.Broadcasting then transferred from Zen studios in Beirut.

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