Femageism Is a Disease at the Core of the BBC

Now you will tell me, won’t you, if you think I’m turning into a moaning Minnie? It’s just that I keep getting exasperated this month!

Honestly, sometimes I think Dr Who has whisked me off back to the 1950s. In the news over the last few weeks have been accounts from three (yes, 3!) female BBC TV journalists who all believe that they were dropped from mainstream TV because they were too old. Yes, check your watches, we are in 2014 and women still face major discrimination because they dare to age. This is not a problem reported by men, as any glance at the BBC line ups will confirm.

It gets worse; it seems that these women were subjected to a ‘gagging order’ before leaving, i.e. we won’t give you a good pay off/reference if you say unpleasant things about us.

Fortunately this hasn’t deterred them from speaking out. You can see an account from Penny Marshall here. Read it and weep.

One of the bravest women, in my estimation, is Miriam O’Reilly, who took on the BBC, challenged her dismissal, and won her case. She has been vindicated by the latest stories and led the way for other women to speak out. She must be so sad that nothing has changed in practice. (You can see my conversations with Miriam from that time here.)

I had a bit of a rant on twitter and obviously I’m not alone in my disgust and, to be frank, sorrow. It really matters when viewers are presented with only young women ‘supporting’ older men. Older women become invisible in serious news programmes. What message does that send out? If you are an older woman, working in serious journalism at the BBC, you are likely to find yourself being quietly phased out, as you’ll see if you read the Penny Marshall account and also that of Olenka Frenkiel, another victim of the BBC’s Femageism. Time and again the BBC say they are addressing this issue but they seem incapable of making meaningful change.

I love the Beeb. I’m addicted to radio 4. I love it when I go abroad and people tell me how lucky I am to have such a great broadcasting corporation and speak with admiration of the BBC.

But I can’t be proud of this.

What can we do to make them listen?


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Posted on November 14th, 2014 by

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