Michael Buerk, the broadcaster, has criticised female news readers andtelevision presenters who complain of ageism, arguing those given jobs “because they look nice” cannot protest when they later lose them.
Buerk, 68, said he felt it was “fair enough” for television executives to get rid of older employees, in a process he likened to “pruning the raspberries to make way for new growth”.
His comments are likely to pit him against several high-profile women who have recently spoken out about ageism on television, including Miriam O’Reilly who won a claim against the BBC, and Selina Scott, who settled with Channel 5.
Condemning the role of presenters as “somebody who front a programme without any special reason for being on it”, Buerk added many had “cried ageism” and rushed to tribunals upon being sacked.
“If you got the job in the first place mainly because you look nice, I can’t see why you should keep it when you don’t,” he added.
Speaking of his career in the 80s, he said he had found himself “washed up” in an industry “suddenly about yoof”.
“BBC’s bosses dropped the lofty Oxbridge languor that had been their trademark to set off in hot pursuit of our children,” he said.
“They talked, incomprehensibly, about “focused subgenre slates”, which turned out to be management b-------- for cutting-edge tripe like Snog, Marry, Avoid. Overnight, to wear a tie or read the Telegraph was career death.
“Older presenters were cut down in droves, much as you would prune the raspberries to make way for new growth.
“Fair enough, in my view, though many cried “Ageism!” and several went to tribunals.
“'Presenter’, in any case, is a very recent job description dreamt up to describe somebody who fronts a programme without any special reason for being on it.
“And if you got the job in the first place mainly because you look nice, I can’t see why you should keep it when you don’t.”
He has now argued the “worm has turned”, with older broadcasters now becoming “trendy” again.
Citing 79-year-old Mary Berry, 86-year-old Bruce Forsyth and 75-year-old David Dimbleby as prime examples, he said television was now geared towards an older audience.
In 2005, Buerk complained about “life being lived according to women’s rules”, with masculine traits marginalised and men “becoming more like women”.
In 2011, he spoke out about perceived political correctness in television, arguing that “giving people jobs purely on the ground that we need another six Asians, or we need another six lesbians, or we need another six pensioners” is “almost worse” than age discrimination.
Among the women who have successfully claimed they were discriminated against on the ground of ageism in television include Miriam O’Reilly, who won an employment tribunal in 2011 after being dropped from Countryfile.
In 2008, 57-year-old Selina Scott reached a settlement thought to be worth around £250,000 with Channel 5, claiming ageism, after being lined up to fill in for Natasha Kaplinsky’s maternity cover but dropped in favour of a 28-year-old.
She has previously said discrimination was a “pervasive and institutionalised…disease” at the BBC.
Interviewed by Buerk for the Radio Times, broadcaster Angela Rippon, 69, suggested the situation today was markedly different.
“I wake up every morning thinking how extraordinary it is – to be 69 and still working on TV,” she said. “Television has at last realised you need maturity and experience alongside youth and beauty. It’s finally come of age.”
Article from the Telegraph