Older Women On TV

The columnists and critics of the world have all been muttering amongst themselves at the inherent sexism and ageism of TV news. In fact, 2009 saw a surge in people climbing over one another to vent angrily about ageism in television. Carol Vorderman was shipped off Countdown for a younger Rachel Riley… Arlene was axed from Strictly Come Dancing for Alesha Dixon… and the news didn’t really have any older women at the desk.

Now, while this may be a noble cause for the ‘thinkers’, I’d argue that no-one really gives a sh*t.

There’s an assumption in media that, if you ask a question you’ll get an answer that is indicative of what people think. Whilst that may well appear to be the case on the surface of things, I’d wager that most people didn’t have an opinion on it until they were asked.

For example: You ask someone what religion they are, and they’ll umm and aaah and say something like “Church of England I guess… that’s what school I went to anyway.” The result is some jumped up git going “A-HA! WE ARE A CHRISTIAN NATION AFTER ALL!” However, ask them “Are you religious?” and the answer will invariably be “Not really.”

As such, there’s a brouhaha going on about older women on the news. When people are asked: “Is it fair that older women are cruelly booted away from the newsroom in favour of getting the boy’s club in?”, any right minded person will say “Well, seeing as you put it like that, not really, no.”

I’m pretty certain that no-one really gives a damn who reads the news. The news is boring. It’s anti-television. The news is something most of us feel obliged to watch so we’re not completely brain-addled by reality shows and live sports. Like going to art galleries, it’s something we feel compelled to do to keep our brains active, despite the fact that the crushing reality of it is that neither really stimulates our brains, but rather, makes us feel a little more self important for 10 minutes.

The real question is: “What do you think of news presenters?” The answer will be “Boring” or “I like that guy with the funny face”. I seriously doubt your average person would immediately leap into action and yell “I’m glad you’ve asked me that! You see, something has been bugging me for ages! Where is the representation of my sex? Eh? Television is a disgrace!”

Fact is, Moira Stuart for example, may well be very good at her job. In fact, I like Moira Stuart a lot. However, in the scheme of things, I couldn’t care less whether she was on our screens again or not. She’s presented the news for years and probably paid her mortgage years ago thanks to a lucrative stint on our boxes. Same goes for Huw Edwards or Trevor McDonald. I don’t care if they get fired in the name of getting someone younger in who hasn’t been on our TV sets before. I pretty much don’t trust anyone who appears on my TV anyway, so getting a supposed sage in is a moot point, regardless of gender.

While I do think it’s important to represent everyone where possible, I’m way more concerned by the Londoncentric nature of media rather than sexism. Delete as applicable… but there’s not enough Northerners/Homosexuals/Pakistanis/Representations Of Recent Immigrant Nations/Welshman/Transgender people/Disabled People on our televisions.

That big long list there feels far more pressing about a specific gender in a specific age range. The fact is, there’s so few jobs in television that people are always going to lose out. They’ll usually lose out to the nicest looking person. This means younger faces will replace older faces until the end of TV. It’s not a new way of thinking. Whether it’s right or wrong is one thing… but chances are, for the most part, the general public just don’t care because we want our TV and we want it now.

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