This chapter considers the evolution and trajectory of a problematic construct we will heuristically call ‘Saudi Arabian television’. It does so in light of notions inherent in Michael Curtin’s analysis of the Chinese conundrum, whereby ‘constraints on content’ and privileges for ‘state-sanctioned enterprises’ impede development of those very outputs that have traditionally sustained ‘popular’ television, namely drama and comedy. It starts by reviewing motives for Saudi investment in television from the 1990s to the present day. It goes on to examine how non-Saudi companies and individuals have been engaged to nurture a Saudi-based entertainment industry of international stature. From there it explores some background to what is widely portrayed as a ‘new’ approach to screen production in Saudi Arabia and concludes by assessing whether this approach will generate vibrancy and innovation.
This chapter appears in The Future of Television in the Global South, edited by George Ogola. The volume critically examines the future of television in the global South, taking a broad geographical focus from sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America