Television channels in the Arab World have been accused of promoting beauty over brains by placing ‘brainless’ beauties to anchor important television programmes.
Most television channels carefully choose beautiful women and tall, handsome men to appear on television programmes as hosts or anchors. While most of them are trained well, there is a growing suspicion among viewers that a lot of them do lack the required skills, according to an interactive debate during the final sessions of the Arab Media Forum.
Are women being used as a tool to market television channels or they are given assignments because they are good at their work? This age-old debate came up in an explosive session participated by four anchors and television personalities – all up in arms against one UAE national critic who fired up the session with salvos of attack one after the other, enjoyed by a crowded audience.
“The Arab media is filled with fakes where beauty is given priority over substance, compromising the seriousness of the contents,” Maryam Al Kaabi, writer and media critic, UAE, said in a panel discussion on ‘Qualifications: Pretty Face’ – triggering a lively debate at the concluding session of the Arab Media Forum.
“Has the qualification of anchors and announcers been reduced to physical beauty and style? What happens to substance, intellect? When you are on a television screen, do not promote your beauty or looks, promote a message. If you want to promote beauty and looks, then go to a wedding party or other places, said Al Kaabi.
“During the holy month of Ramadan, we have seen women with little clothes appearing on television, which is in utter disrespect to the local cultures of the audiences they cater to.
Al Kaabi accused owners of the television channels and their investors for such tendency.
“Unfortunately, the owners of the media outlets and investors do utilize the physical beauty of females to attract young men and increase their audience. This is what capitalism does –women are used as commodities.”
She also accused some of the TV anchors of plastic surgery to lift up their appearances.
Amal Al Awadhi, Actress and TV host, Kuwait, said, beauty is temporary, but knowledge is permanent. “In order to sustain one’s presence, there is no substitute to knowledge and skills. Television personalities should have the required skills,” she said.
“We appreciate beauty which is important. But, beauty is not everything. One needs talent, skills and proper understanding of the subject that she is dealing with.”
Al Awadhi pointed out three criteria of being a successful anchor.
“Charisma is important while acceptance is also crucial. However, the most important thing is to be able to present an idea or an issue in the best possible way,” she said.
Most viewers think that the presenter merely read out the texts on the autocue in front of her while looking at the camera straight. How smartly she does is important, they think.
Heba Al Abasiry, Anchor, Al Hayah TV, Egypt, however, does not agree.
“Name one pretty face who does not have the skills in front of the camera – and you will find none,” she challenges.
“However, there are presenters in the Arab television media, who are of middle age and not appealing – but still running shows. So, the accusation that only the appealing ones get the job is not true.”
Part of the problem, the anchors say, is due to a set mentality among many viewers that the beautiful ones are chosen due to their physical appeal, and not their intellectual capacity.
Nadine Njeim, Anchor, MBC, who was also Miss Lebanon, says that the issue is based on stereotype mentality.
“Many of us are armed with higher degrees and can speak in a number of languages.
Beauty + Intellect
“However, when we are judged by others, we are judged based on our physical beauty – everyone forgets that we also have intelligence and we understand serious issues of the society, such as business and politics,” she said.
“Having said that, there are many women armed with good qualification but who are not considered due to lack of beauty.
“Besides, most channels are owned and run by men – who are more interested in women.”
Mayssa Maghraibi, Actress and TV personality, said, she has never considered herself beautiful.
“Beauty without brains creates a vacuum. Beauty needs to be filled with education and intellect,” she said. “One should invest in oneself and strengthen their skill level.”