Albert Square meets Arab world with new MBC soap

The drama is by Tony Jordan, the screenwriter and producer of the British series “East Enders.” (Supplied)
Updated 01 August 2019

Albert Square meets Arab world with new MBC soap

LONDON: MBC Studios has teamed up with Abu Dhabi’s twofour54 and Image Nation to produce an Arabic-language soap opera called “Inheritance.”

The soap was created for MBC Studios by Tony Jordan who was lead writer on the UK soap EastEnders, set around the fictional east London neighborhood of Albert Square.

The deal will see a dedicated studio built for the show in Abu Dhabi which will also serve as the main location for filming. 

Media free zone twofour54 will invest directly in the production, and MBC is set to benefit from the Abu Dhabi Film Commission’s 30 percent rebate on production spend in the emirate, the pair said in a statement on Wednesday.

CEO of MBC Studios Peter Smith. (Supplied)

“We are thrilled to have agreed to a long-term production deal — the first of its kind in the Arab world,” said MBC Studios Managing Director Peter Smith.

The show’s backers describe it as the Arab world’s first soap opera because they say that at present, while there are many Arabic drama series, none are scheduled to run indefinitely — a defining characteristic of a soap opera.

“Inheritance” will shoot for more than 250 days of the year, and it is expected to generate over 200 jobs in the first year. 

Maryam Eid AlMheiri, vice chair of twofour54, described the deal as a “landmark moment” in Arab entertainment and cultural history. 

Efforts to create more homegrown Arabic-language drama comes as global video on demand players from Netflix to Amazon eye the Middle East as a potentially lucrative and under-served market.

MBC Digital Managing Director Johannes Larcher last month told Arab News that it was boosting investment in its “Shahid” Arabic-language video-on-demand platform in the second half of the year.

“We have viewers from North America to Europe who are Arab speakers and who want to use Shahid to stay in touch with their countries of origin and their culture,” Larcher told Arab News in an interview.

The development of ‘Inheritance’ is the latest milestone in twofour54’s longstanding partnership with MBC. In 2015, MBC and twofour54 signed a three-year agreement in 2015 to grow the number of quality Arabic drama productions in Abu Dhabi and the region. That partnership produced a broad range of Arabic content, including “Haret El Sheikh,” “Hob Bila Hudood,” season one of “Boxing Girls,” and the first two seasons of “Al-Asouf.”

The first episode of “Inheritance” is expected to air in the first quarter of 2020.

Plastic particles in drinking water present ‘low’ risk — World Health Organization

Updated 22 August 2019

Plastic particles in drinking water present ‘low’ risk — World Health Organization

  • WHO issues first report on microplastics in drinking water
  • Reassures consumers that risk is low, but says more study needed
GENEVA: Microplastics contained in drinking water pose a “low” risk to human health at current levels, but more research is needed to reassure consumers, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.
Studies over the past year on plastic particles detected in tap and bottled water have sparked public concerns but the limited data appears reassuring, the UN agency said its first report on potential health risks associated with ingestion.
Microplastics enter drinking water sources mainly through run-off and wastewater effluent, the WHO said. Evidence shows that microplastics found in some bottled water seem to be at least partly due to the bottling process and/or packaging such as plastic caps, it said.
“The headline message is to reassure drinking water consumers around the world, that based on this assessment, our assessment of the risk is that it is low,” Bruce Gordon of the WHO’s department of public health, environmental and social determinants of health, told a briefing.
The WHO did not recommended routine monitoring for microplastics in drinking water. But research should focus on issues including what happens to chemical additives in the particles once they enter the gastrointestinal tract, it said.
The majority of plastic particles in water are larger than 150 micrometers in diameter and are excreted from the body, while “smaller particles are more likely to cross the gut wall and reach other tissues,” it said.
Health concerns have centered around smaller particles, said Jennifer De France, a WHO technical expert and one of the report’s authors.
“For these smallest size particles, where there is really limited evidence, we need know more about what is being absorbed, the distribution and their impacts,” she said.
More research is needed into risks from microplastics exposure throughout the environment — “in our drinking water, air and food,” she added.
Alice Horton, a microplastics researcher at Britain’s National Oceanography Center, said in a statement on the WHO’s findings: “There are no data available to show that microplastics pose a hazard to human health, however this does not necessarily mean that they are harmless.”
“It is important to put concerns about exposure to microplastics from drinking water into context: we are widely exposed to microplastics in our daily lives via a wide number of sources, of which drinking water is just one.”
Plastic pollution is so widespread in the environment that you may be ingesting five grams a week, the equivalent of eating a credit card, a study commissioned by the environmental charity WWF International said in June. That study said the largest source of plastic ingestion was drinking water, but another major source was shellfish.
The biggest overall health threat in water is from microbial pathogens — including from human and livestock waste entering water sources — that cause deadly diarrheal disease, especially in poor countries lacking water treatment systems, the WHO said.
Some 2 billion people drink water contaminated with faeces, causing nearly 1 million deaths annually, Gordon said, adding: “That has got to be the focus of regulators around the world.”