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January 22, 2009
Oprah brings taboo topics to Middle East

Satellite television has reached even conservative parts of the Arab world, where hundreds of programs are now available. The Middle East’s MBC-4 began airing “The Oprah Winfrey Show” more than four years ago, and the program now reaches about 6 million viewers in the Arab world each day.

Though aimed at an American audience, the program has brought formerly taboo topics — like reproduction or homosexuality — into discussion.

Worldfocus correspondent Kristen Gillespie reports from Jordan on the “Oprah effect” in the Middle East.

Read her blog post about her reporting experience here: Watching Oprah in a Syrian refugee camp.

For more on the impact of satellite television and talk shows in the Middle East, see PBS Wide Angle’s “Dishing Democracy.”




I can’t stand Oprah. Here sensationalist shows translate into fear mongering to me. The result being an audience which is abnormally paranoid.


If Oprah did a show regarding the plight of the Palestinian’s she would be subject to a massive boycott led by AIPAC (The American Israel Public Affairs Committee). Many Political leaders of both parties have addressed AIPAC conferences including Barack Obama. If the topic alone would be on the settlement issue which is a major road block to peace Oprah would need all of her charm and special talents to survive the storm of criticism and backlash from this group.


It seems to me that these middle eastern women do not understand that the subjects for each show are especially chosen for their sensationalism. They seem to think that gay marriage and trans-sexualism is commonplace in the USA. The show particularly targets “hot-button” subjects that are not a clear picture of mainstream America. The common, ordinary lifestyle of the “typical” American, whatever that is, would not gain a large viewer base, so the people and subjects that are dealt with are outside of the norm for the purpose of gaining a larger audience.


I liked the segment you showed about Oprah reaching out to women in Jordan. You spoke how it was helping spread freedom and Democracy to the middle east. Then I thought about our freedom here in America and realized how isolated we have become with the corporate takeover over of our media. I would like to able to view television from around the world like they can in Jordan. I guess America is not the land of the free anymore!


Oprah’s show in the Middle East can only be a positive force. We can see the positive results of cultural blending in cosmopolitan cities.
Taboos usually result in some form of exploitation or abuse of innocent people. It is good to shed light on taboos. It is good for humans to learn their common humanity. People my vary somewhat. The life style of different human groups may vary; maybe, a few special psychic traits in those groups may assert themselves, but fundamentally, their mental existenses flow along the same channels of ideas and consciousness. Containing the same cosmic momentum and under the same cosmic inspiration, they all have set out for a tryst with the same destiny. More power to Oprah for opening up folks to new ways of thinking.


to be honest, i wouldn’t –personally, classify Oprah’s show as an icon but i do like her open-minded approach when it comes of educating the West about the Middle East; after all, its not all “black and white”; as most if of the people in the ME are trying to cope with the harsh living circumstances/standards forced on them as an outcome of the cold war period and still is. improving education, easing travel and new job opportunities is the only way to limit the extremist movement consequently, improve the image of Arabs worldwide!


I LOVED the “Oprah effect” story. I am an Israeli woman who is living in NY and is a fan of Oprah. It was so refreshing and inspiring to see these lovely women and to hear their opinions. There is a huge crowd of Oprah fans in Israel as well, it would be nice if Oprah would do a show about the conflict.

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