Politicians participate in 'House of Dialogue'

BEIRUT — In a break from the glitzy pop-music reality shows it is best known for producing, the Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. has launched a reality show tackling the country’s political crisis by featuring politicians as participants.

The new series, dubbed “Beit El Hiwar” (House of Dialogue), brings together rival political activists — party members, journalists and parliamentarians — to live under one roof for three days while being filmed by multiple cameras.

Set against the backdrop of a deepening national divide between the pro-Western government and the anti-American opposition, participants are chosen from both sides and are asked to come up with some semblance of a working dialogue.

In the real world, the deadlock has become so fierce that the two sides have failed to agree on electing a president — a post that has been vacant since last November — while parliament has been suspended for over a year. Government and opposition supporters are also sharply divided over the growing influence of the U.S., Iran and Syria on Lebanon following the war with Israel during the summer of 2006.

According to LBC spokeswoman Sana Iskandar, the show is aimed at “encouraging the process of communication between Lebanese people whatever their political commitment or opinion.”

However, the first episode of the three-part series, which aired April 6, failed to produce any significant results, according its host, veteran LBC news anchor Dolly Ghanem.

Addressing participants following the first day of filming, she noted a high level of chaos during the marathon two-hour episode, which often degenerated into a cacophony of arguments. With the exception of a lunch break, during which contestants continued to thrash out well-rehearsed talking points, the program came to resemble the loud and divisive talkshow programming Lebanese auds have become fatigued with over recent years.

In a referee-like segment, “Beit el Hiwar” also features two independent observers who periodically comment on the nature of the discussions.  One described the first episode as “a tennis match with 30 balls bouncing across the court at once.”

The show’s producer, Danielle Obied, is more optimistic. She said some progress will be made during the second episode, while a “surprise” ending is in store for the finale.

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