Friday, December 11, 2009

Newsreaders in niqabs

Amani Fikri of the BBC Arabic Service reports:
Until recently you would never have seen women presenting television programmes dressed from head to toe in the niqab or burqa. But on the Saudi religious channel Awtan TV [shown above] it has now become the norm.
Female broadcasters at the station are draped in the all-enveloping dresses, which are usually black and also cover their faces. The work environment too is very different. Male technical assistants do not enter the studio while the women are presenting.
There are more than 60 religious channels across the Middle East. Some allow women to present programmes without being fully covered or dressed in black. Others have no women presenters at all.
Awtan TV decided to take a unique approach. The station was launched in 2008, and last month it set a precedent by allowing women to present, but only on the condition that they wear the niqab.
Ola al-Barqi anchors a breakfast show, as well as a quiz show for girls called Mosabqat Banat.
A key element of the programme is the relationship built between presenter, contestants and the audience – something that might be more difficult if the presenter is totally covered up.
“The face is not the only way to build a relationship,” explains Ms Barqi [. . . ] “We’re always receiving calls from viewers in various countries encouraging us to keep doing what we do.” [. . . ]
Ms Barqi says there are other good reasons why she wears the niqab.
It helps her to concentrate more on her work rather than anything else, and what she looks like is irrelevant. “We don’t introduce ourselves as beautiful women who put on layers of make-up. Our audience is focusing on what we present to them, our ideas and our discourse.”
Ms Barqi believes some people work in the media to become famous. But that is not why she became a presenter. “We don’t need fame,” she explains.
Which raises the question: will Ms Barqi ever appear on the cover of Sayidaty, Oasis or any other Saudi women’s magazine? I guess not. At least she will never have to suffer the indignity of her face appearing on the back of a bus, as happened last year to TV3 newsreader Hilary Barry. And yes, the obvious joke was made many, many times.

Monitor: Mick Hartley


Paul said...

I would like to see Paul Henry follow this example.

Stephen Stratford said...

What a good idea. Male viewers could then concentrate solely on Pippa Wetzell. However, while it might improve the visuals it would do nothing for the verbals.

Bob Smith (the other one) said...

I wonder what the weather girls wear, eg the Sunni Toni Marsh. Wouldn't be the same at all.

Publisher said...
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