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Surprising poise, abilities emerge in TV contest
By Xu Wei

ICHELLE Li, a product manager at a local bank, stunned the audience and judges of the “Host-Off” bilingual TV hosting contest with a 2-minute stint as a financial program hostess. Though Li lacks any TV hosting experience, her fluency in both Chinese and English, as well as her confidence and strong appetency, greatly impressed the judges.

Many bilingual would-be hosts from all over the world have emerged in the contest, which is organized by International Channel Shanghai. The reality competition series will be aired weekly on the channel starting tomorrow. China’s first bilingual TV hosting contest sets no restrictions on age, gender or nationality. It has attracted many expats and grass-roots Chinese people who have aspirations to be a TV host.

According to Gu Wenjun, a director of the show, more than 300 people from various nations and regions entered the competition. After several rounds of selection, the best three contestants will be honored and they have a chance to become anchors at ICS.

“The contest is in line with Shanghai’s image as an international metropolitan city,” says Gu. “We are amazed to see so many bilingual talents from all walks of life here. We have seen chef, policeman, waiter,

physician, student, stand-up comedian and foreigners showcase their capabilities and passion on stage.”


The 3-judge panel is composed of celebrated local TV hostess Yuan Ming; Jiang Changjian, an international relations professor from Fudan University;

And Canadian TV host and scholar Mark Henry Rowswell, better known as Dashan in China.

Gu says the three judges from different cultural and educational backgrounds can ensure the selection is carried out in a fair manner. They can also offer contestants their tips from diverse perspectives.

Yuan, an award-winning hostess for the business talk show “Boss Town” and news feature program “Crossover,” Says she has been impressed by the energy, confidence and personalities of many contestants on the stage. “I can feel whether the contestant has a real talent or huge potential for hosting within a very short time, Like seven seconds,” Yuan says with a smile. “I can’t tell the reason but a good TV host does have a chemistry.” She recalls her first impression years ago of CCTV anchors Dong Qing and Ouyang Xiadan, both of whom rose to fame from local TV channels. Yuan believes at first sight that they would excel in this field.

She notes that a TV host should be able to articulate his/her true and sincere feelings, have broad knowledge of a variety of subjects, remain curious about the world, and never lose affection for life and people.

She says that a common mistake for many young hosts is that they care too much about their own performance and the influence of their words and perspectives on screen.

“Though we hold the microphone, we are never taking the leading role in a program,” Yuan says. “The leading roles are always the news event itself,

And the audience and guests to the show. We should act as a guide for a good atmosphere and interaction.” Yuan has been a TV host for 28 years and has spared no effort to improve her abilities, especially the in-depth understanding and analysis of news events.

Canadian Rowswell says he tries to select outstanding TV anchors from the perspective of audience, instead of from a professional. He has seen many gifted foreign contestants who speak good Chinese. However, he hopes to see more creative efforts from them.

“I have been engaged in the TV industry for more than 20 years,”

He says. “It is a different era these days when the young people should take their own career path to move forward.”

Jiang, now a teacher at Fudan University’s School of International Relations and Public Affairs, established his fame in 1993 when he won the first International Varsity Debate and the “Best Debater” title in Singapore while competing for Fudan.

He was also the chief planner of the famous celebrity interview program “Yang Lan One On One” from 2001 to 2005. Last year, he impressed TV viewers with his scholarly style of hosting on Jiangsu Satellite TV’s “The Brain,” a show that aims to identify “the strongest brains in China.”

Jiang says that his criteria includes Chinese-English communication skills, transnational perspectives, superb organizing, guiding and quick reaction abilities on screen, strong affinity and a good control of the rhythm of a TV program.

“In this fast-paced society, a TV host is also required to give the audience as much information as possible in a certain short time,” he says. “The opinions and values can be conveyed with emotional appeal to resonate in the hearts of the viewers.”

TV hosting is a crossover attempt for Jiang. He expects to see a rising number of TV anchors who lack professional hosting education but have solid academic backgrounds in other subjects.

“For this group of anchors, they should not lose their advantage in their own field because TV hosting is not a career orientation for them, but a stretch of their profession and knowledge,”

Jiang says, adding that he will consider new hosting invitations only for programs involving science, education and news commentary.

ICS is considering making “Host-Off” an annual program.


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