Soap operas find online niche in Azerbaijan

May 11, 2012
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In Azerbaijan, soap operas are mainly aimed at housewives and elderly people. But recent changes applied to TV regulation in the country have made them popular with young Internet users as well. Although a recent talk show on the subject of one particular show has sparked an online debate.

A decision from the National Television and Radio Council to ban foreign soap operas beginning 1 May has made the channel Space TV nervous. Known as a channel with one of the lowest number of viewers it has struggled to get advertisement, but the Indian TV show, “Don’t Be Born in a Cruel World” has been a boon in gaining of viewers for the network.

The soap opera has been so popular among some generations that many chaikhanas (or, tea houses) have been named after Amaji, the hero of the film. Space TV ran a special talk show about the soap opera on the first day of the ban.  The program itself was about which of two female leads in the show to support: the authoritarian, criminal, and old Amaji or her daughter-in-law, Sia, who is the new ruler of the Indian community in the program. The show was nonsense, but many people participated in this “serious debate”. The channel even offered a special SMS line where people could send an SMS to vote for a side, which cost one euro per text.

The issue of how Space TV has used this soap opera has made online users angry. Video of the show was posted to many websites – including social networks – and received mainly negative feedback. I think one of reason that has made younger people crazy about show is that Amaji, who is generally a negative character got more SMSes than the more positive Sia.

But the main issue, of course, is that the problems of modern Azerbaijan are not shown on Space TV while such “fictional” issues are treated so seriously and used for citizen participation programs.

About the Author

Emin Huseynzade

A leading new media expert Emin Huseynzade has consulted and worked with the OSCE, OSI, Internews, EJC, Oxfam and other international organizations. He is actively involved in projects covering Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia and Central Asia. Follow him on Twitter: @eminhuseynzade
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