Thursday, February 9, 2012

BBC Boss Mark Thompson admits the injustice that the BBC got it wrong on older women as presenters; bring back Moira Stuart to 10 O’clock news!

Dear All

Awhile ago, the BBC made in my opinion a massive blunder, older presenters such as Moira Stuart were replaced for no good reason other than they were old.

Out with the old and in with the new, except the ‘new’ wasn't as good.

Now, BBC director-general Mark Thompson has admitted there are not enough older women on television.

People like Moira Stuart are not just presenters; they are national icons much in the same way as legendary people such as Robin Day.

Age discrimination is wrong; it was only later on that the BBC admitted they made a massive mistake.

But the damage had been done.

As a national broadcaster the BBC doesn’t always get it right, mistakes are made but while there is a process it doesn’t mean that justice gets done or is seen to be done.

Television is about ratings; new people break through because they have generally talent, what people such as Moira Stuart brings to television is gravitas.

This is something which is massively understated in BBC thinking.

Mark Thompson says a ‘thoughtful critic’ of the BBC might ‘make two searching points’:

‘First, that there is an underlying problem, that – whatever the individual success stories – there are manifestly too few older women broadcasting on the BBC, especially in iconic roles and on iconic topical programmes.

‘Second that, as the national broadcaster and one which is paid for by the public, the BBC is in a different class from everyone else, and that the public have every right to expect it to deliver to a higher standard of fairness and open-mindedness in its treatment both of its broadcasters and its audiences.’

Good points.

If the BBC was to stick Moira Stuart back on prime time news, it would be a step in the right direction and a clear signal of a see change, it would probably take a bit of persuading given she was very badly treated, but the BBC should swallow it’s pride.

In recent years, respected figures such as Anna Ford, Selina Scott, Kate Adie, Dame Joan Bakewell and many others have spoken out about their concerns over the treatment of older women by all broadcasters.

Trouble is this should have been coming from the top downwards, which calls into question ethics and balance of those appointed as governors.

Although the problem is acknowledged, the BBC shouldn’t get sucked up by an agenda that revolves around positive discrimination.

It is all about merit that is how Moira Stuart was selected in the past; she was good enough and quickly established herself as such.

Mr Thompson points to a survey, called Serving All Ages, which he commissioned in his role as chairman of the industry body Creative Diversity Network.

It revealed, he says, that a significant minority – not just females – felt older women were ‘invisible’ on air.

The BBC should reflect society in all aspects, but anyone before the cameras must be there because they are good.

By acting in the way it has the BBC has let itself slip, because someone who should have been watching out for what is unfairness and injustice couldn’t be bothered.

Mark Thompson highlights the BBC1 daytime show Rip Off Britain which is presented by Angela Rippon, Julia Somerville and Gloria Hunniford as an example of how ‘great female talent’ has been brought back to the BBC.

If I was someone at the BBC I would ask to see Moira Stuart and offer her the 10 O’clock news, I would go armed to teeth with previous recordings of the news and make the case; the BBC needs her.

She might turn that down flat which is understandable because no one was there to back her up in the past.

But I would make an appointment for same time next week to try again.

People talk about the greats but the BBC should be trampling down the door to people like Moira Stuart.

She is simply one of the most talented presenters ever to grace the screens of the BBC.

And you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know where she belongs.

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

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