Tuesday, January 5, 2010

BBC & Older Women

From the Guardian:
When a male newsreader gets older, he becomes an authority; when a female newsreader gets older, she becomes a problem. Harriet Harman, equalities minister, says she heard this gem from a former senior executive at the Beeb. It's probably true, but hopefully it won't be for much longer. Last September, the BBC director general, Mark Thompson, decided that the real problem was not enough older women on the telly – and urged his news chiefs to employ more of them. Suddenly, from being a problem, 50-something women news anchors were in demand.

Now four of them are back in jobs. Just before Christmas, the BBC confirmed the appointments of Julia Somerville, Zeinab Badawi, Fiona Armstrong and Carole Walker . But why hadn't news bosses realised sooner that older women were perfect as news anchors? In many cultures, after all, older women are seen as the fount of wisdom and authority — who could be better for a job that requires lashings of both?

So will this be a flash in the pan? Or might this be a real change? I think it really could. Not only is it cheering that the BBC's head of news, Helen Boaden is herself, wait for it, a 50-something, but when you look Stateside you see a TV landscape in which older women news anchors have every bit as much status as older men (and a lot more, given their experience, than younger women).

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