The shows are annual events - Future Television's Superstar talent contest and LBCI's Star Academy reality TV competition. 

On Monday, in Bahrain the Middle East Broadcasting Centre (MBC) television channel announced it was suspending an Arab version of the controversial Big Brother, because of the public outcry there where it was being filmed. 

One day earlier, Superstar launched its second annual edition with expecting to draw record viewing figures. 

"Last year, we reached a record number of 4.8 million spectators. This time we are expecting the figure to rise to six million," Bilal Labban, the coordinator of Superstar, told AFP. 

Stardom quest

Some 40,000 stardom-seeking youngsters applied to take part in the show, with 83 being chosen from 15 Arab countries. 

Those selected, including 32 young women, come from Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, the Palestinian territories, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Libya. 

Many Muslims have sharply criticised the whole basis of the
Superstar and Star Academy shows which flout many of the values of the socially conservative Middle East. 

Superstar candidates are housed in hotels and episodes are shot at Future TV studios, while Star Academy candidates are housed at LBC1 buildings, with separate dormitories for women and men. 

Taboos

Aired on a 24-hour satellite channel, Star Academy shows young Arab women and men living together in a talent contest that proved a big hit in a region where private lives are taboo subjects and sexual segregation remains the norm. 

"These kinds of programmes are in contradiction with our habits and with the principles of Islam. We are seeing youngsters kissing and expressing emotions. This is indecent," said Lebanese Shaikh Muhammad Hamdi. 

In Kuwait, another Muslim shaikh described the shows as
"impious". 

The Superstar programme will be broadcast in three stages, starting with the airing of screen tests held in a roadshow across six Arab countries and France. 

Superstar

"We included France to give young Arabs in that country the chance to participate in the competition. And for the sake of transparency, we want to show the public the criteria of our selection process," said Labban. 

Jordanian Diana Karazon has
won the title of  Super Star

In early April, the 83 selected candidates will attend a second screening which will only retain 14 finalists among whom a winner will be voted in the summer. 

The voting process of Superstar is entirely based on emails and text messages while in Star Academy, the process also involves a jury of professionals as well as the candidates themselves. 

At the Superstar final last year, the announcement of the victory of Jordanian Diana Karazon prompted demonstrations in several Arab countries. 

Thousands of people took to the street in Amman to celebrate Karazon's win with shots fired into the air and personal congratulations from the royal family. 

'Rigged' voting

Bahrainis demonstrated against 
the Big Brother show

The loss of Lebanese candidate Melhem Zein angered fans who demonstrated outside the Future Television headquarters to denounce what they termed the "rigged" voting process. 

"In order to overcome suspicion, we developed the capacities of our switchboards and we have hired an international control company," said Labban.

MBC's scrapping of Big Brother came three days after some 1000 people, mainly Islamists, protested against the show, which the channel was producing at a villa in a resort called Amwaj on Muharraq island, the second largest in the Bahrain archipelago. 

Islamist MPs accused that show of violating Islamic traditions.