TV forcing older women out, says Harman
Published on 13 September 2013 11:30 AM
Harriet Harman has waded into the debate surrounding the lack of older women on TV, accusing the broadcasting industry of double standards.
In a speech at the Royal Television Society Cambridge Convention, the deputy leader of the Labour party said women are 'pushed out of the door' as they age.
'Something seems to happen when they reach their 50th birthday - it's like the viewer needs to be protected from the sight of them,' she said. 'It's fine for Jeremy Paxman to go grey and grow a beard, but not for a woman.
'Here we are in the 21st century, yet you see everywhere the old-fashioned TV format of an older man teamed up with a glamorous younger woman.'
The BBC in particular has come in for criticism in recent years over the issue of older female presenters, but has pledged to redress the balance.
BBC1 is currently broadcasting a series of Rip Off Britain hosted by Julia Somerville, 66, Angela Rippon, 68 and Gloria Hunniford, 73.
A fast shift away from social inclusion
Ms Harman, the shadow culture secretary, was also critical of the TV industry recruiting a growing number of staff from privileged backgrounds.
She said that in the past TV had prided itself on drawing upon the skills of people from all walks of life, giving Lord Bragg and Greg Dyke as examples of those who had risen to the top from humble beginnings.
But she warned 'that appears to be decreasingly the case now' and suggested there was a strong element of nepotism for those coming into the industry.
She told TV executives there has been a faster shift away from social inclusion than in any other profession.
'Television, beloved by people from all parts of this country and from all walks of life, must draw on the talent of people from all parts of this country and from all walks of life,' she said. 'And that's not going to happen by itself - it needs positive action.
'Whenever I go to television interviews - especially if it's at some god-awful hour on a Sunday morning - I always take note of the young person who takes me in, often on work experience or doing an internship. So often it's the son or daughter of someone who works there.'
Copyright Press Association 2013