Syria's television history can be traced back to the mid-twentieth century, with the establishment of the Syrian Arab Republic in 1961 and the formation of the Syrian Arab Television (SAT) network. On December 23, 1960, the first Syrian television station, SAT, began broadcasting from Damascus. It was launched as part of a larger plan to modernize the country and promote national unity, and it quickly grew in popularity as a source of news and entertainment. SAT initially broadcast only a few hours per day, with programming that included news, films, and other cultural programs.
SAT's programming evolved over time to include more locally produced content, such as dramas and comedies. In addition, the station began broadcasting live coverage of national and international events, such as sporting events and political rallies. SAT became an increasingly important tool for the government to communicate its policies and messages to the Syrian people in the 1970s and 1980s.
Syrian Educational Television (SET), a second television station, was established in 1985 to provide educational programming for students and teachers. The programming on SET was designed to teach children and young adults about various subjects such as science, history, and literature.
With the introduction of satellite television and the proliferation of private channels in the 1990s, the Syrian television landscape underwent significant changes. Syrians now have access to programming worldwide, providing a much broader range of content than was previously available. Private channels such as Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya began challenging the dominance of state-run channels such as SAT and SET.
The Syrian government launched a third television station, the Al-Ikhbariya news channel, in 2004, quickly becoming one of the country's most popular. Al-Ikhbariya was established as part of the government's effort to counter the influence of foreign news organizations such as Al Jazeera and promote a pro-government message to Syrians.
Golden Era in the Television History of Syria
Syrian television's Golden Era is often regarded as the period between the 1970s and the 1990s when the Syrian Arab Television (SAT) network produced some of the country's most iconic and memorable tv programs.
"Bab al-Hara," a historical drama series set in Damascus' old city during the 1920s and 1930s, was one of the Golden Era's most popular programs. The series debuted in 2006 and quickly became a hit in Syria and across the Arab world. "Maraya," a television series that explored social and political issues in Syrian society, was another iconic program.
Syrian television during the Golden Era produced a variety of educational programs in addition to dramas and social commentary. "Al-Aa'la," a program aimed at teaching the Arabic language, was well-liked by students and teachers across the country.
Several prominent actors, directors, and producers rose to prominence during the Golden Era of Syrian television and went on to become household names in the country's entertainment industry. Duraid Lahham, for example, was one of Syria's most beloved actors of all time, best known for his comedic roles in shows like "Basmat al-Watan." Director Hatem Ali, producer Nizar Al-Qabbani, and actress May Skaf were among the other notable figures.
Overall, the Syrian television Golden Era was a time of great creativity and innovation, with high-quality programming reflecting the country's rich cultural heritage and diverse society.
Syria's Golden Era in Television History
During the Golden Era of Syrian television, a wide range of television shows, from historical dramas to comedies to educational programs, became extremely popular. Here are some of the most popular types of television shows during this time period, along with their descriptions:
1. Historical dramas:
Bab al-Hara: This series was set in the old city of Damascus during the 1920s and 1930s. People loved the show because it was so true to Syrian culture, customs, and traditions. It showed how people lived in the old part of the city.
Al-Taghreba al-Falastinia (The Palestinian Diaspora): A series that examined the lives of Palestinians who were forced to leave their homes during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
Al-Hejaz: This series was set in the Arabian Peninsula during the 19th century and explored the life of a young woman who became embroiled in the politics and social customs of the region.
Basmat al-Watan: This series a satirical look at Syrian society that used comedy to look at the country's political, economic, and social problems.
Al-Zahaymer: This series was a comedy about a group of men who work together in a furniture factory. The show was celebrated for its clever humor and engaging characters.
Tash ma Tash: This Saudi Arabian comedy series was popular throughout the Arab world, including in Syria. The show was known for its irreverent humor and its focus on social and cultural issues.
3. Social commentary programs:
Maraya: This television series tackled corruption, poverty, and gender inequality in Syrian society. The show was celebrated for its frank and honest portrayal of these issues.
Kilmitna Sa'ida (Our Word is Happy): This series focused on Syrian women's lives and their challenges. The show was celebrated for its empowering message and its focus on gender equality.
Al-Basheer Show: This satirical news show explored current events and political issues in Syria and the Arab world. The show was known for its irreverent humor and willingness to tackle controversial topics.
4. Educational programs:
Al-Aa'la: This program focused on teaching the Arabic language using a variety of teaching methods, including songs, poetry, and skits.
Al-Fenoon al-Robabia (The Fourth Art): This show looked at music and dance in the Arab world and introduced viewers to different styles and traditions.
Al-Hikayat al-Sha'bia (Folk Tales): A show that looked at Syrian and Arab folklore and told classic stories and legends.
5. Children's programming:
Fasla wa Fasla: This show was a puppet-based series that explored science and technology fun and engagingly.
Tutti Frutti: This musical program introduced children to different musical styles and traditions from around the world.
Sahib al-Sa'ada (The Happy Owner): This animated series followed the adventures of a young boy named Ahmad and his magical talking.
The Most Popular Trend-Setting Shows of the Golden Era
A number of trend-setting shows broke new ground in terms of format, content, and style during Syria's Golden Era of television. Here are some of the most well-known and influential shows from that time period:
Al-Malik Fahd: This historical drama was a trend-setting show in terms of its scope and production values. It chronicled the life and reign of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and was notable for its elaborate sets, costumes, and visual effects. The show was a huge success both in Syria and throughout the Arab world.
Al-Kitab wa al-Sunna (The Book and the Sunna): This religious program was a trend-setting show in terms of its format and content. It featured a panel of Islamic scholars discussing issues related to Islamic law and practice, and it quickly became one of the most popular shows on Syrian television.
Al-Raheeq al-Makhtoom (The Sealed Nectar): This historical drama explored the life of the Prophet Muhammad and the early days of Islam. The show was notable for its respectful and nuanced portrayal of Islamic history. It was a significant departure from the sensationalist and often inaccurate depictions of Islam on other television programs.
Al-Quds al-Arabi: This news program was a trailblazing show in terms of its focus on Palestinian and Arab issues. It provided in-depth coverage of the region's political, economic, and social issues and became a voice for Palestinian and Arab solidarity.
"Akhbar al-Youm" (News of the Day): This news program was a trend-setting show in terms of its format and style. It was one of the first news programs in the Arab world to adopt a modern, fast-paced format with multiple anchors, live reports, and a focus on breaking news.
"Saree al-Qalam" (The Pens are Running): This literary program was a trend-setting show in terms of its focus on Arabic literature and poetry. It featured interviews with writers and poets, readings of classic works, and discussions of literary trends and themes. The show was instrumental in promoting Arabic literature and poetry to a wider audience.
"Shaabiyat al-Cartoon" (Cartoon Comedy): This animated comedy show was a trend-setting program in terms of its format and content. It featured a cast of animated characters who satirized political and social issues in Syria and the Arab world. The show was a huge hit with viewers of all ages and became an icon of Syrian popular culture.
Rise of Private and Semi-Private Channels
The rise of private and semi-private television channels in Syria dates back to the early 2000s, following the liberalization of the country's media laws. Among the most prominent private and semi-private television channels that emerged during this time period are:
Al-Dunya TV – Est 2004: A privately owned satellite television channel based in Damascus. The channel features a mix of news, entertainment, and cultural programming and has become known for its coverage of local events and issues.
Orient TV – Est 2009: A privately owned satellite television channel based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The channel focuses on news and current affairs programming, with a particular emphasis on events in Syria and the Middle East.
Al-Watan TV – Est 2012: A privately owned satellite television channel based in Damascus. The channel features news, current affairs programming, and cultural and entertainment content.
Al-Mayadeen TV – Est 2012: A semi-private satellite television channel based in Beirut, Lebanon. The channel focuses on news and current affairs programming, particularly on events in Syria, Lebanon, and the Middle East.
Addounia TV – Est 2007: A privately owned satellite television channel based in Damascus. The channel features a mix of news, entertainment, and cultural programming and has become known for its coverage of local events and issues.
Syria TV – Est 2010: A semi-private satellite television channel based in Damascus. The channel features news, current affairs programming, and cultural and entertainment content.
Al-Ikhbariya TV – Est 2007: A semi-private satellite television channel based in Damascus. The channel features news, current affairs programming, and cultural and entertainment content.
Rise of Dish and Cable TV Channels
Dish and cable television are relatively new in Syria, with the majority of households still relying on traditional terrestrial broadcasting. However, the number of satellite and cable channels available to Syrian viewers has increased significantly in recent years. Here are some of the most popular satellite and cable TV channels in Syria:
OSN: A major satellite television provider in the Middle East, offering a wide range of channels in both Arabic and English. Some channels available to Syrian viewers through OSN include OSN Yahala Cinema, OSN Movies Action, and OSN Discovery Channel.
BeIN Sports: A global sports network that offers a range of live sports events and programming, including football, basketball, and tennis. Syrian viewers can access BeIN Sports through a variety of satellite and cable providers.
MBC Group: A leading media company in the Middle East, offering a range of television channels, radio stations, and digital platforms. Some of the channels available to Syrian viewers through MBC Group include MBC 1, MBC Drama, and MBC Action.
Dubai TV: A satellite television channel based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The channel offers a mix of news, entertainment, and cultural programming and is available to Syrian viewers through a variety of satellite and cable providers.
Al Jazeera: A global news network that offers a range of news and current affairs programming in Arabic and English. Syrian viewers can access Al Jazeera through a variety of satellite and cable providers.
Rotana: A leading media company in the Middle East, offering a range of television channels, music production, and digital platforms. Some channels available to Syrian viewers through Rotana include Rotana Cinema, Rotana Classic, and Rotana Khalijiya.
Abu Dhabi TV: A satellite television channel based in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The channel features news and current affairs programming, as well as cultural and entertainment content, and is available to Syrian viewers through various satellite and cable providers.
Rise of Regional and Local Language Channels
In recent years, the rise of regional and local language channels in Syria has significantly developed, allowing for greater representation and diversity of voices in the media landscape. Here are some of Syria's most prominent regional and local language channels:
Halab Today TV: A local language television channel based in Aleppo, Syria. The channel features news, cultural programming, and entertainment content in the local Aleppo dialect.
Al-Karama TV: A regional language television channel based in Latakia, Syria. The channel features news and current affairs programming in the local Latakia dialect.
Sama TV: A regional language television channel based in Homs, Syria. The channel features news, cultural programming, and entertainment content in the local Homs dialect.
Al-Furat TV: A regional language television channel based in Deir ez-Zor, Syria. The channel features news and current affairs programming in the local Deir ez-Zor dialect.
Al-Sham News: A regional language television channel based in Damascus, Syria. The channel features news and current affairs programming in the local Damascus dialect.
Al-Ghad TV: A regional language television channel based in Sweida, Syria. The channel features news and cultural programming in the local Sweida dialect.
Al-Salam TV: A regional language television channel based in Tartus, Syria. The channel features news and current affairs programming in the local Tartus dialect.
The Most Watched / Popular Television Channels in Syria
The most watched and popular television channels in Syria vary according to programming, availability, and regional preferences. However, here are some of the most prominent television channels in Syria that are widely regarded as among the most viewed and popular:
Syrian Drama TV
Nour Al-Sham TV
These television channels have become household names in Syria and are watched by a large number of Syrians. While state-run channels continue to dominate, the rise of privately owned channels has given viewers a wider range of programming options.
Regulatory Authority of Television in Syria
Syria's television regulatory authority is the National Council for Radio and Television (NCRT), which was established by presidential decree in 2012. The NCRT regulates and supervises all public and private radio and television broadcasting in Syria.
The NCRT's primary functions are as follows:
Granting licenses for television and radio stations, both public and private.
Regulating television and radio programming content to ensure compliance with Syrian laws and regulations, as well as ethical and professional standards.
Monitoring and supervising television and radio broadcasts to ensure that the NCRT's regulations are followed.
Conducting investigations into complaints and violations involving television and radio broadcasting.
Sanctioning and fining broadcasters who violate NCRT regulations.
The NCRT is overseen by a board of directors appointed by the Syrian president and operates under the authority of the Ministry of Information. The board is in charge of establishing policies and regulations for Syrian television and radio broadcasting.
Syrian television is still an important part of Syrian culture today, providing a variety of programming to viewers across the country. However, the Syrian media landscape is now more diverse than ever, with Syrians having access to a wide range of news and entertainment sources via satellite television, the internet, and social media platforms. Despite the Syrian media industry's challenges, television continues to be an important means of communication and entertainment for Syrians, reflecting the country's rich and diverse cultural heritage.