Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- Two years ago, Saudi Arabia witnessed its first female news presenters with the launch of the new Saudi channel Al Ekhbariya. Anchorwomen have proved to be competition for their male counterparts as well as for prominent and distinguished female newsreaders around the Arab world even in the field of security which is considered internally to be dominated by men. More recently, Saudi women have entered a field from which they were completely absent, namely, sports-related news and programs.
Nada Al Daham has presented the sports news for Al Ekhbariya news channel for three months and told Asharq Al Awsat that the decision to appoint her to this position was taken as a result of her personal ambition and that the channel’s administration encouraged her choice of work. Al Daham is critical of those who associate news genres with a certain sex and those who claim that the use of female news anchors is a marketing ploy. Al Daham’s personal support for this career path has been met by reservation and disapproval from society.
Ghanim al Qahtani, the executive secretary of the Saudi Sports Channel, stated that the channel is seeking to produce more programs regarding women’s sports. Al Qahtani stated that “it would be difficult for the time being,” for women to present the main sports bulletins. He adds however that this idea may be implemented in the future.
It is evident that the sports bulletins of many Arabic satellite channels in general are managed by females. Lilyan Nama, a sports presenter for Al Arabiya told Asharq Al Awsat that her work is the result of her education and the field in which she specialized during her studies, namely, sports media. This was followed by further study of various aspects of sport including training and refereeing.
Marianne Basil, a sports presenter for MBC recounts a different story. Basil began presenting sports-related news three years ago as she preferred this genre to political news but did not plan to enter this field. She condemns the typecasting of women and society’s labeling of non-conformist women as “masculine”.
Saleh al Hamadi, a sports writer, analyst and commentator for ART (Arab Radio and Television) considers that presenting sports related news and shows for Arab, Gulf and Western channels is unsuitable for women, despite that such an opinion would be deemed narrow-mindedness.
In the same respect, Ahmed al Maseebih, the managing editor of Al Riyadh newspaper refused to support the idea of female sports presenters for local Saudi channels or [Saudi] satellite channels on the premise that women do not take part in sports and this limits their knowledge of the topic. He highlights that this is not the case for women in other Arab countries and the western world; accordingly, it is acceptable for women to present sports news and programs in these regions.