July 16, 2004 08:00 AM

Attention those who want to be the next Fantasia Barrino: Expect to be carded.

Producers of American Idol are raising the age limit of those hoping to go for the $1 million recording contract on the FOX talent hunt – though not by much, reports the Associated Press.

Rather than a 24-year-old maximum age limit, contenders can now be as “old” as 28, FOX said Thursday. The minimum will remain 16.

The fact that so many impressive people older than 24 had to be turned away prompted the new rule, FOX programming chief Gail Berman told reporters at this week’s Television Critics Association press tour.

“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 added.

The new season – Idol’s fourth – begins in January, with tryouts kicking off Aug. 4 in Cleveland.

Other auditions, which will continue through Oct. 5, will be held in Washington, D.C., Orlando, St. Louis, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Anchorage and San Francisco.

Berman also was asked if any changes would be made to the voting rules or to the phone lines, after complaints reached a fever pitch last season that votes were not being properly tallied due to jammed lines.

Said Berman: “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.”

In other words, no.

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