Satire for Saudis served up on YouTube
UTURN, a Jeddah-based production company is revolutionising Saudi Arabian news and entertainment: producing shows that have been watched 286 million times on YouTube.
In a Kingdom where morality police patrol public spaces to enforce approved modes of behaviour, public criticism of the King is strictly prohibited and where the heavily regulated broadcasters present idealised portraits of Saudi life, UTURN's funny, tongue-in-cheek, light-hearted content is nothing short of incendiary, and the company is at the head of an explosion of creative YouTube videos being generated in the Kingdom. UTURN produces its 16 shows with a staff of 25 people. Popular shows include On the Fly, a satire show which draws comparison to Jon Stewart’s the Daily Show and Eysh Elly, a review of online videos across the Arab world.
UTURN was set up by Abduallah Mando, now 27, and two university friends in 2010, who says he established it ‘to advance society.’ While the government is yet to censor or limit YouTube content, as recently as 2004 they almost banned cameraphones. Yet Mando seems aware of the risks: all the operation’s staff were raised in Saudi and understand the sensitivities, and he believes ‘the best way to fulfil our goal – to advance society – is to do so without offending anyone.’
Saudi’s 28.3 million strong population, almost half of whom are under the age of 25, watch more YouTube per capita than anyone else in the world and two hours of video is uploaded to the site every minute.
With 20-30 million viewers a month in MENA, chiefly in Saudi, it gathers its revenues from advertising, mostly product placement.
Image courtesy of Mohd Azli Abdul Malek
Last updated: 15th of May, 2014