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What the world’s poor watch on TV

Is television an outpost of cultural imperialism? More than two billion people in poor countries now have access to a set. But, rather than envying the west, they are increasingly tuning in to local programmes

By Bella Thomas   82

In 1999, an extremist group in Karachi launched a campaign against un-Islamic practices in Pakistan, where satellite television is popular. The most arresting stunt was the burning of a pile of television sets. The group, Tehrik-e-Insdad Munkirat, declared: “the gadgets are satanic devices which corrupt people and society.” It is not alone in thinking this.

Today America is threatened by a hatred that is inflamed by its seduction of television audiences across the world. Or so it is often said. “They hate us because they see endless pictures of our rich, sleazy, easy lives in the soap operas shown around…

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