MBC, LBC proceed with planned broadcasts

BEIRUT — The massive car bombing in Beirut on Jan. 25 could not have come at a worse time for Arab television giants MBC and LBC. Hours after the attack, which killed one of Lebanon’s top terror investigators, both networks were to air big-budget shows live across the Middle East from studios within the Lebanese capital.

But as the nation reeled from its ninth high-profile assassination in three years, producers at both networks had concluded that their much-anticipated programs would go on as scheduled.

Featuring an elaborately lit set, and despite an official day of mourning declared by Lebanese prime minister Fouad Siniora, cameras rolled and catchy signature music cued as LBC unveiled the fifth season of its hit reality series “Star Academy.”

The season premiere of the Endemol-licensed show opened with lavish dance displays including a cover performance of the massive club hit, “Love Is Gone” by David Guetta. As one of the contestants sang the track while strumming an electric guitar, go-go dancers gyrating behind him ripped off their cloth tops beneath an artificial on-stage rain shower. The effect was just a peek at the high-powered season ahead, the host warned with a wry smile.

Meanwhile at competitor MBC, the attack — one of the deadliest since the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005 — coincided with a star-studded broadcast of its new variety showcase, “Al Arrab,” featuring popular Lebanese Armenian host Nishan Der Haroutiounian, widely known simply as Nishan.

He opened the show by paraphrasing a quote by Bob Marley, telling his audience that following an assassination attempt on the reggae star’s life, he had vowed, “never to take one day off.”

“Who else other than the Lebanese people have grown adamant enough to withstand the challenges of politics,” he told viewers across the region.

Nishan told Variety he had persuaded network mangers at Dubai-based MBC that his show would be aired from Beirut, despite a broadcast rescheduling following a previous assassination last year.

“It was one of my demands that I start the show from Lebanon,” he said. “I personally believe that as a Lebanese citizen, if I leave Lebanon for my career — like so many other people have done — then this country would be emptied.”

A similar sense of resilience was reflected at LBC, indicating that despite the intensifying violence, Lebanon remains an essential production location.

“The show must go on,” said LBC spokeswoman Sana Iskandar in a statement. “The Lebanese people made their choice years ago to proceed in challenging bombs and terrorism. And we, as Lebanese, are proud to confirm our will for life and surviving through all ordeals.”

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