There was an interesting report in The Guardian recently which highlighted the results of a survey commissioned by age related charities regarding older women in TV. It found that 71% of the respondents were happy to see Arlene Phillips on their screens and 80% agreed that TV favoured younger presenters.
Monday, 31 August 2009
I feel Arlene has had a very rough deal from the BBC. She was one of the judges on their hit Saturday night show "Strictly Come Dancing" but she is being replaced for the upcoming series with former winner and pop star (and much younger) Alesha Dixon. Before we go on I should make clear that I am not keen on the show (I am not a fan of dancing) - I end up half-watching it though as my wife is a big fan. Phillips is 66, Dixon is 30.
The decision to drop Arlene Phillips has caused a fair bit of consternation amongst commentators and it is part of a pattern across TV. There were also questions raised over how newsreaders Anna Ford and Moira Stewart were treated (also both in their late 50s or 60s when they "stepped down"). These are just the most high profile cases though and it seems to be indicative of something endemic within broadcasting. If you're a woman, you will struggle to retain your position as a presenter as you get older.
This is manifestly unfair. It seems that men are not subject to the same standards at all. Bruce Forsyth who is still the main host of "Strictly Come Dancing" recently turned 80. Now Bruce is a legend but it is sometimes a bit cringeworthy watching him on that show. He stumbles over the delivery of his lines and sometimes seems a bit confused about what is going on. If anyone should be considered for retirement on that show I would say it should be him (as much as it pains me to say it).
Also, what about Len Goodman. He is only a year younger than Arlene Phillips at 65 but it seems his position is secure too.
If Phillips has been edged out because of her age to be replaced with a beautiful young woman then this is a disgrace. She has decades of experience as a dancer and choreographer. She has directed West End and Broadway musicals and won multiple Olivier awards for these as well as Tony nominations, she developed her own style of Jazz dancing and she formed, directed and choreographed Hot Gossip! Alesha Dixon is a pop star who won the show a couple of years ago. In other words an amateur. How can the BBC possibly think that she will make a better judge than Arlene?
I hate ageism. I think it costs us both in social, but also economic terms. The way people are edged out of their jobs when they hit their 50s or early 60s is a disgrace and I am glad that as a society we seem to be getting better at recognising this and not doing it as much.
I love going into my local B&Q (who seem to have a very good policy on this) and seeing the older people working there on the tills and in the shop generally. I usually find that they are more helpful and knowledgeable than their teenage colleagues. Aside from anything else they have probably put up shelves, painted and decorated houses themselves many times so will know how to advise on practical things - you know like your mum or grandad can.
But this situation seems to be even worse. There seem to be elements of ageism and sexism combined. If these are behind the decision regarding Phillips then it seems the BBC is behind the curve on the public here.
It would appear from the survey quoted at the start that we are much happier to see older women on TV than they are giving us credit for.