Changing Winds

Oman TV, Indian (Ocean) Films and Media Piracy in the 1980s

In: Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication
Samhita Sunya University of Virginia USA Charlottesville, VA

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By exploring the case of Oman TV’s broadcasting of Indian films in the 1970s and 1980s, I uncover the gulf between historiographies of national cinema and television that are framed by histories of production, on the one hand, and accounts of (new) media distribution that are framed by neoliberal contexts of globalization since the late 1990s, on the other. From archival sources, including Indian government documents and trade journals, three intriguing patterns emerge: (1) In lists of countries to which Indian films were being exported in the 1980s, the importer is mentioned, specifically and uniquely, as ‘Oman TV’ instead of ‘Oman’. (2) By the 1980s, Oman TV was a crucial conduit through which Indian films were readily and easily available to audiences in Pakistan, among other locations across the Middle East and South Asia, regardless of national import/export policies. (3) Weekly broadcasts of Indian films on Oman TV fueled demand for both VHS tapes of Indian films and the local exhibition of Indian films in cinema halls. Together, these strands reveal a key moment of infrastructure development in the Gulf, a period of burgeoning labor migrations and major shifts in transregional media distribution and viewing practices.

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