Let us meditate upon the experiences of American broadcaster Larry King.
King recently ended his illustrious 25-year career as host of the Larry King Live show on CNN. This was the longest-running television show in the world, during which King conducted more than 40,000 interviews with political and entertainment figures, obtaining very high viewing figures. Indeed, his last ever episode had a global audience of around 2.5 million viewers.
King ended his time as host of Larry King Live at the age of 77, whilst he first began hosting this show when he was 35; and so Larry King began his career at an age that many of us in the media and television view as being the beginning of the end.
There are very few broadcasters and anchors on our television screen of a similar age to that at which Larry King began his career at CNN, and this is an issue that brings us neatly to a discussion of the Arab media in general.
There can be no doubt that attractiveness, and charisma, as well as professionalism and experience are some of the things needed by anybody wanting to be a successful television anchor or host, however this is not all that concern those who work – or desire to work – in television.
Age is an issue that affects Arab television broadcasters and journalists, and for some female television broadcasters this has become something of an obsession. This is because more than one Arab television channel has removed a female Arab broadcaster or journalist from their screens citing their increase in age, and this is something that happens without any controversy being raised or anybody saying that this is an example of discrimination and ageism.
Television is an extremely challenging media, and it requires continuous innovation and renewal, with regards to the style of what is presented, and indeed those who are presenting. This is something that also requires experience and professional expertise, however we see younger and younger hosts and broadcasters being brought through, replacing the older more experienced ones, and then we hear questions about the lack of expertise and experience of Arab broadcasts! This is the experience of the television media following the revolution that this medium witnessed in the 90s.
Those media figures that came to prominence during this period, around 20 years ago, and gained expertise and experience all throughout this period, are today suffering from the media’s problem with age and fascination with youth. The problem is that these same faces themselves believed in style over substance, which is what resulted in them [20 years ago] replacing their fore-bearers, and which will see them being replaced today.
This pursuit of youth is something that not only affects the Arab media, but something that we see in the western media, although without it weakening the professionalism and expertise of the media itself.
We are therefore entitled to be a little jealous of Larry King!