Dubai, Asharq Al-Awsat– Arab satellite TV viewers have undoubtedly noticed the increasing airtime accorded to economic affairs and the latest information on the stock market. While in the past, business matters were presented in a short summary included in the main news bulletin, today however they enjoy special lengthy coverage in business-only channels. This change in the Arab media is expected, given that the media caters fir the demands and the interests of its audience.
With the rise in financial programs, new faces have appeared on Arab TV screens. Remarkably, the majority of these new presenters are women. Seif Fakry, director general of EFG-Hermes Brokerage in the United Arab Emirates said news bulletins on the latest developments in the business world were vital in order to spread awareness amongst viewers. “These programs make it possible for investors to hear the opinions of experts and economists who they wouldn’t have access to otherwise.”
Fame, however, comes at a price. Female anchors have to ensure their reports are accurate and error-free. Mistakes are simply not permissible, especially as the subject matter is directly related to people’s money and fortunes. Nadine Hani, a financial anchor at al Arabiya, told Asharq al Awsat about her experience reporting on the Saudi stock market. “In light of the recent losses the Saudi stock market incurred, I hosted Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. As he was announcing his intention to invest between 5 and 10 billion Saudi Riyals in the market to revitalize it, we received news that King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz had ordered shares be split and allowed foreigners to buy shares. The interview with Prince Alwaleed took place prior to the opening of the evening news session during which stocks rose 5% and the [Tadawul] index moved from the red.”
For her part, Shiraz Baridi, an anchor at CNBC believes the presenter has to be well-abreast of the latest developments in financial markets worldwide. Despite work pressure and the dryness of the subject, Shiraz loves her work… Her colleague Lara Habib aggress that women presenters have gained respect from viewers in the last few years, given the increasing interest in financial markets and shares. “Sometimes, I have been stopped by women in the street who wanted to find out more about anchorwomen. In the past, financial broadcasters were not as famous as new presenters. The situation is different now.”
Asked about the reasons that drive women to become financial anchors, Jamil al Hajj, head of the finance and economy section at al Arabiya said there were no specific reasons that drove women towards financial journalism. Instead, “Candidates are chosen based on their qualifications. We do not select women to help our viewers accept a decline in shares! We employ experts, whether they are male or female.”
In this respect, Hatem Ghander, head of the economic news division at CNBC, indicated that “We do not set out to employ women anchors. At the moment, we have three anchorwomen specialists in the stock market, two male anchors and a male trainee. He will go on air very soon. Expertise and qualifications are the main requirements to join a specialist business channel like CNBC.”
Below is a brief overview of the career path followed by some of the most well-known anchorwomen in Arab business channels today.
*Zeina Sufan graduated from the American University in Cairo with a B.A in Middle Eastern Studies and joined the Lebanon-based Future TV. She moved to Reuters and enrolled in a number of training sessions for financial journalism. She is currently working at al Arabiya.
*Nadine Hani holds and MBA from Beirut and has worked in several banks before joining CNBC Arabia in October 2003. She joined al Arabiya ion August 2005 as and presents financial and economic news.
*Saba Odeh studied business administration at the American University in Beirut and spent five years as an economic advisor at an investment bank in London . She later joined Merrill Lynch before moving to Dubai to work with CNBC and then al Arabiya.
*Shiraz Baridi holds an MA in international relations. She enrolled in economic journalism courses in Lebanon and worked in the Lebanese newspaper al Liwaa. She joined CNBC Arabia after working as a financial anchor in Abu Dhabi TV.
*Lara Habib studied Economics as an undergraduate and holds an MBA. She embarked on a career in banking before joining CNBC Arabia.