SBC TV presenters told to wear abayas

DetailsRebecca Hawkes | 05 January 2015

Black headscarves and abayas must now be worn by women TV presenters at the Saudi Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) while a mandatory dress code remains in discussion by the Shura (Advisory) Council.

SBC's women anchors will have their traditional black abayas decorated on the sides with ribbons to match the corporate colours of the channels they represent, reported Arab News.

Presenter Budoor Ahmad was reportedly the first presenter to appear wearing an abaya adorned with a blue stripe on Al Ekhbariya news channel in early January 2015.

An amendment to the country's audiovisual law to ensure women working on television wear sanctioned clothing has been proposed by Noura Al Odwan, a member of the Shura, with backing from the culture and media affairs committee. She proposed fines of up to SR10 million (1.7 million) for those who break the dress code.

The proposal has, however, been sharply criticised by members of the council, who highlight there is no law currently that imposes a dress code for women in Saudi Arabia, therefore such a move would be illegal.
Council member Saud Al Shimmari dismissed the proposal, saying it was focusing on marginal issues rather than the media's main objective.

"Any medium seeks to influence and to convey specific messages to its users," Al Shimmari was quoted as saying in Gulf News. "We have unfortunately lost our focus and instead of working on that aspect, we have directed our efforts towards minor things. We are losing the main focus of our media, and this means that the Saudi public opinion is being shaped elsewhere."

In August 2014 a female presenter broadcast from the London studio of state-run Al Ekhbariya without a veil, sparking controversy. The channel was the first to appoint a female news anchor when it launched in January 2004.

The 150-seat Shura Council now has 30 women who were appointed by King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud in January 2013.