The crisis of national television: the ugliness of sound, image, and meaning

Muhammad Othman Ibrahim writes…

If Sudanese official television had suddenly disappeared from the air and ceased to exist, the Sudanese would have lost nothing at all, and perhaps they would have benefited from saving the wasted money and failed energies deposited in its stores without talent, without skills, without creativity, and without a positive return.

This huge, notorious apparatus, burdened with redundant workers and half-talented people, has contributed to distorting the Sudanese’s self-awareness and creating a false stereotype for them about themselves. This image is automatically animated with the original that appears to be a limited segment of Sudanese citizens living in Khartoum and does not represent any of the population centers in the country.

In other words, the official television (which is called national) does not present the image of the Sudanese in northern Sudan with their modest clothing, men and women, and does not present the image of the residents of Gezira State, for example, or the Nile River State “except in popular singing programs,” and it does not represent the regions of Sennar, the Blue Nile, the White Nile, and Kordofan, Darfur and the East.

It goes without saying that neither the aforementioned men’s uniform nor the aforementioned women’s uniform comes within a specific and known set of technical conditions, or those that express national identity/identities.

The latest jurisprudence was during the era of the late former director Al-Tayeb Mustafa, who obligated the workers who appear on the screen – and this is what appears to us as viewers – to wear the robes and turban “ported from Upper Egypt” for men, and to wear the dress “ported from West Africa” called – by laying on of the hand – the Sudanese dress, and the hijab, which covers the hair.

Commitment to this dress declined as the period increased away from the era of Engineer Al-Tayeb Mustafa. Even if the Salvation Government fell, the veil of “real or false” hair was removed and men wore wigs (the word meaning wig was also borrowed from French), and television began hosting women dressed as men, and men in women’s clothing, and men with wigs, “masairs”, horseshoes, Ismail al-Taj, and Hajouj Kuka, until a time came when television – which originally got its name from the combination of the words image and broadcast in English, and its name, which is not commonly used in Arabic, from viewing “visual/visual radio” – began to host people without images or faces in an undisturbed “distraction” scene. It only expresses a crisis that can no longer be treated except through demolition and throwing the rubble away in a landfill.
Do these costumes and those wearing them represent the nationalities of the people of Sudan? Do these hastily and unorganized clothes represent the Nubians, the Ja’ali, the Shaqiyya, the Halawi, the Kalaklat, the Jamouiyya, the Kababish, the Juma’i, the Dar Hamid, the Habaniya, the Shukriyya, the Hadandawa, the Beni Amer, the Anqasna, the Funj, the Fur, the Berti, the Zaghawa, the Nuba, or the Berti or Al-Buzai, Whose Television is this exactly?

The television director himself is a victim of framing, which television has created with many methods, repetition, and repetition, and in the absence of theoretical writing that lays the guiding foundations for the media message that the great apparatus is entrusted with presenting.

The history of employment in television is linked to a specific segment of people from specific neighborhoods in Omdurman and the capital. In the absence of theory, they gave their personal stamp to the conventional television image of men and women. Thus, the “beetles” broadcasters in the seventies created the stereotypical image of the Sudanese young man, and the female broadcasters and singers, with their short dresses and wigs, created the image of the civilized young woman, while the image of the citizen was framed as a person wearing a galabiya and a turban or a hat and speaking in the dialect of the people of the Nile River “on the basis that this is the Sudanese dialect.” The door was closed to everyone.

Television was unable to present the true image of the Sudanese, and the inability of those responsible for it to paint a selective and intentional image of the Sudanese personality, i.e. a failure in the (Presentation) and it presented an artificial image (Representation) in a hurry from the collaborators, the “secret gateway to appointment,” and those coming through intermediary from the relatives of the former.
On the other hand, this ill-considered style of social construction of reality created a foolish counter-image that was evident in the clumsy decoration of cultural and heritage programs that rely on excessive presentation of traditional tools, which are mobilized in studios during broadcast hours provided as a donation and discount on Omdurman people’s hours and some neighborhoods of the capital. This distortion creates a counter-perception in the mind that the Sudanese truth that is not represented by television workers is equivalent to ugliness and backwardness.

Fifty years of absence of vision and theory have created an absent audience that believes that this image presented by television represents it, and therefore any attempt to rethink or review is considered a violation of constants.

This absent audience wants to preserve the fixed image that television has been creating through repetition, laziness, and the absence of vision and idea, and it is the same image that expelled him – himself – from in front of the silver screen, so that – when electricity is available – he spends his time in front of Arab channels, so that young people pick up the scraps from the way they style their hair and talk on the phones, dancing while the girls pick up the different pronunciation of the letters “jim,” the way greetings are exchanged, and the colorful makeup that is inappropriate for Sudanese skin and the local weather, “which is a mixture of sun, dust, and man-made noise.”

Thus, Sudanese television deserved the title of Idiot Box, which Westerners awarded to their high-end televisions with a purpose and message.

A brief excerpt from a longer article

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