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 294.

    Particularly in the area of political journalism, there is no substitute for experience - and that can only come with advancing age.

    And if judging a person on looks, there are few roles where the camera is on the 'presenter' other than fleetingly: on QT, Mr Dimbleby's voice is much in evidence, but the main focus is on the guests. So it is on most programmes, other than straight newsreading.

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    Ageism exists in many industries. IT is a good example where it becomes very difficult to find work as you enter your 40's regardless of experience and skills.

  • 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 222.

    I agree ageism is a real problem across all forms of industry. I haven't read all the comments so I don't know if this has been mentioned already. The cost of employing youth in comparison to someone with experience may well be a factor, employers may see employing youth as a cheaper alternative. I think a combination of youth and experience need to work side by side. Both compliment each other.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    It's not just the TV industry that has this problem. The wider workplace also has a bizarre obsession with youth, prizing "fresh ideas" and "dynamism" above clearly useless skills like "experience".
    In my industry - accountancy - if you lose your job past the age of 50, you're in deep trouble. It's a terrible waste of talent.


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