David Dimbleby hits out at sexism and ageism in TV

David Dimbleby David Dimbleby has chaired BBC One's Question Time since 1994

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Veteran broadcaster David Dimbleby has criticised broadcasters for rarely employing older women in front of the camera.

In a Radio Times interview, the 74-year-old host of BBC One's Question Time said: "Why should age matter with women? Women mature elegantly and better than men, very often.

"I don't think age should be a factor for women appearing on TV.

"I agree that it is demeaning to women and... it's a crazy loss of talent."

In 2011, former BBC newsreader Anna Ford described Dimbleby as a "charming dinosaur".

Ford, who left the BBC in 2006, said: "I wonder how these charming dinosaurs such as Mr Dimbleby and [BBC world affairs editor] John Simpson continue to procure contracts with the BBC, when, however hard I look, I fail to see any woman of the same age, the same intelligence and the same rather baggy looks."

Dimbleby - who has been the BBC's main presenter of election coverage since 1979 - said the problem was due to the pressures to get big audiences.

"There is a section among television executives who are always being hammered - quite wrongly in my view - to get the biggest possible audience, and they are told attractive young women will bring in a bigger audience than less attractive, older women - to say nothing of less attractive older men, like me.

"That's the way the TV - not just the BBC - industry works. And I think it's wrong," he added.

Former Countryfile presenter Miriam O'Reilly won an age discrimination case against the BBC in 2011 after she was dropped from the rural affairs show when it moved to a primetime Sunday evening slot in 2009.

Other TV figures including Dame Joan Bakewell and Selina Scott have also spoken out against broadcasters on the same issue.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    How about, the best person gets the job... regardless of sex? Maybe Anna Ford just wasn't good enough... I don't think a woman should be given a job just because she is a woman... that's sexist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    12 Minutes ago
    Question Time should be hosted by Alesha Dixon.

    Who is this Alesha Dixon? The name is sort of familiar but I have no idea what she looks like. It is a she,isn't it? It is sometimes difficult to know nowadays...... not like back in my day....when girls had long hair and boys had short hair....and I wore short trousers to school. Oh, hold on....

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    Of course, it is not only ageism, it is also blatant sexism.

    Why do so many men keep their brains in the their pants?

    I suppose that having it positioned so close to their fundamental
    orifices makes their anal behaviour inevitable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    Southeast today sacked a very able Beverly Thompson and Geoff Clark and replaced them with a yuppie male and bimbo who are very depressing. Hence we now watch ITV local news with Fred Dinage who is in his 70s and his very pleasant colleague.

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    My wife is a producer who has produced content for many years for all the major companies.
    She has told me that they all have guidelines that state that those over 40 must not feature in a reality based documentary unless the documentary is about aging.
    Very often they have to reshoot or edit out people because the client rejects footage on these grounds.
    Ageism is endemic in tv.

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.

    Lets have more mature ladies on the box! Must be better than the present flood of supposedly trendy youngsters who really are quite tedious!

  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    Maybe if older women stop artificial cosmetic procedures and use normal makeup, they would be better appreciated and given more roles. Take a look at Dames Mirren and Dench, they get more acting roles than most younger artists and this is because they look graceful compared to some plastic women their age.

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    Only way to settle this is to to blank out the TV (think its called radio...), so looks cannot be viewed.

    If you showed young people, the old get upset.

    If you showed the old people, the young get upset.

    There is no middle ground, just employee those that are capable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    What Southern Wolf said. And can we get rid of these stupid "quotas" on employing people. I would prefer to get my job on my experience, qualifications and actual ability to do the job...rather than being to meet the quota of female workers, for instance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    Question Time should be hosted by Alesha Dixon. After all, the BBC (and ITV) think she can do anything else without any evidence of ability or intelligence and better than older women. But she'd pack the punters in and she's (just about) the right age.

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    These old multi-millionaire grandees are privileged figures who toe the establishment line. They champion very little. They are instrumental in ensuring that debate takes place within strictly controlled limits, to advance the massive illusion that democratic dissent is allowed, even encouraged. In reality nothing changes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 261.

    Woman will never be taken seriously if you keep breaking the law by not valuing the person. Looks are only skin deep and skin gets thinner with age, the person grows stronger. People respect informed views even if they do not agree with all they say. Gender has no impact but learned re-enforcement of stereo-typical male-female roles does. Time to listen to our language. the solution lies there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 260.

    I'd like to see some the the ageism removed from BBC politics. OK you need some experience to be any cop but watching Bumblebee going softly on the panel each week on question time is past its sell-by-date. Get someone younger on with some venom and let's see them nail the squirming panelists each time the wriggle out of a question. Let's have a two way street with age on the BBC please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 259.

    I do get sick of hearing all these debates; 'Employ more older people!', 'Employ more [ethnic minority] people'. How'a about this for a rule: Employ the best person for the job, irrespective of gender, age, orientation, race, religion or creed?

    A presenters job is to engage the audience. That means understanding the audience. If they can do that at 20 or 80, being gay or asian, great!

  • rate this

    Comment number 258.

    Am getting a bit fed up with the "woe is me" attitude of some people nowadays. Surely, when you put yourself forward for a job in an "up front" part of the media then you are fully aware of your shelf life. Having attractive/young people in front of the camera has been going on since the camera (still/moving) was invented. I'n not saying its right..but it can't, honestly, be a suprise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 257.

    The irony of the age debate which has been rearing its walking stick in the press is that; everyone has been ageist to a degree in their lives because there's obvious difference in some abilities.
    The BBC keeps household names. I'd bet that more men and women knew who Dimbleby was than O'Reilly or Ford.
    Isn't this protest a lack of self-awareness which perpetuates this section of society?

  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    254.Marine Ginger Beer - ".....his very biased chairing of question time is another bone of contention."

    The mere fact that both extreme right and extreme left BOTH claim BBC/QT bias against their side PROVES that the show (& wider Beeb) is anything but bias!

    Not taking your favoured line is not the definition of bias.....

    ....look it up in the dictionary....

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    It is not that there are not enough older women on TV but that there are far too many older men on TV as an ego hogging the jobs not giving younger people chance. Examples are David Dimbleby (74), Jonathan Dimbleby (68), David Attenborough (87), John Humphreys (69). These people should retire and give younger people a chance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    Considering the appalling commentary, riddled with mistakes, Dimbleby made during the Thatcher funeral I would respectfully suggest that he should retire gracefully. Additionally his very biased chairing of question time is another bone of contention.

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    Before we get carried away with remarks about old dinosaurs, can we just remember that many of the BBC's journalists put their lives on the line to bring us reports from some very dangerous places like Afghanistan and Iraq?


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