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Controversy of Entertainment in Saudi Arabia

Controversy of Entertainment in Saudi Arabia

Thursday, 31 January, 2019 - 07:45
Salman Al-dossary
Salman Aldosary is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper
As usual, major events in Saudi Arabia emerge as a subject of controversy and debate and later become a reality to which people get accustomed. Reactions to entertainment events followed the same path. The greater the controversy that arises as new events take place for the first time in the Kingdom, the greater the leaps are - not in the number or quality of the events being held - but in the acceptance and enthusiasm of the new concept within the community.

Three years ago, for example, no one could have imagined that the Saudis would adapt so quickly to the rapid development of their country. But in fact, they were not only integrated but broke several barriers that many thought would take decades to overcome.

During a session at the World Economic Forum in Davos this year, the Governor of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority said that in 2018, 500 entertainment companies were established, providing more than 20 thousand jobs to the people. The Entertainment Authority has provided more than 3,200 days of recreational activities to more than 19 million visitors, and every dollar invested in this area has doubled.

Imagine that 19 million visitors could have missed the opportunity to have a good time because there are those who claim that these events are inappropriate. Imagine that 19 million visitors are denied their right to choose; because there are those who do not like such a transformation.

If such provocative claims were actually heard, the state would have lost not only a door to entertainment for its citizens, which is of paramount importance anyway but also a very reliable economic resource. It would also have lost 500 companies and 20,000 job opportunities.

All this was done in just one year, and before the launch of the new entertainment strategy, which is expected to open larger horizons, with the aim to transform the Kingdom into one of the top four entertainment destinations in Asia and among the world’s top ten.

Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 recognizes that while culture and entertainment are important factors in a good quality of life, the available cultural and entertainment opportunities do not meet the aspirations of the citizens and residents and are not commensurate with the country’s booming economic situation.

The entertainment industry is not only limited to a concert or a film show; it is also an economic backbone of any country in the world, for the establishment of arts and entertainment projects, including libraries, museums and theaters, and for the support of talented authors, writers, directors and artists, with the final objective to offer a variety of cultural and entertainment choices.

According to statistics in Saudi Arabia, about two-thirds of the population of 30 million people are under the age of 30. Those are certainly the main beneficiaries of the entertainment sector; they need it the most and are attracted to the multiplicity its activities. They represent the segment of the society that found what suits them and meets their wishes, perhaps more than other age groups.

At the same time, we must not disregard the fact that reservations by some components of the society must be seen as natural, rather than surprising. They must be understood as an essential part of any process of change faced by a world community. This is certainly different from vicious attempts to exploit such events and label them as evil.

These provocative attempts are not new to Saudi society; the difference is that the Saudis have learned the lesson from bad experiences and will no longer allow anyone to dictate on them a path other than that they have chosen for themselves.

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