Originally created 07/17/04

Age limit raised for 'American Idol'



LOS ANGELES -- The age limit for "American Idol" contenders has been raised, but not by much.

Two years has been added to the maximum age for the talent competition, which had been 26, Fox TV said Thursday. The minimum is 16.

Prompting the change: The fact that so many impressive people older than previously allowed had to be turned away, said Fox programming chief Gail Berman.

"I'm sure there are people who are tremendously talented above that but we're talking about people who hope to have pop careers afterward," Berman told the Television Critics Association.

Auditions for the fourth season begin Aug. 4 in Cleveland. Other tryouts, which will continue through Oct. 5, will be held in Washington, D.C.; Orlando, Fla.; St. Louis; New Orleans; Las Vegas; Anchorage; and San Francisco.

Past winners include Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard and Fantasia Barrino. The hit series returns in January.

Despite viewer complaints that congested telephone lines made it difficult for them to vote in the competition, no changes are planned, Berman said.

"The phone system is probably the most sophisticated phone system ever put together in the country. It allows for the most participation that we could figure out how to do in a household," Berman said.

Limiting homes to one call each would prevent individual family members from backing their favorite, she added.