David Dimbleby: lack of older women on TV is a 'crazy loss of talent'

Television must re-examine its ageist and sexist culture and make the necessary changes, urges 74-year-old BBC presenter

David Dimbleby, once described by Anna Ford as a charming dinosaur, has called on the broadcasting industry to drop its "demeaning" prejudice against older women and stop squandering their talents.

For too long, said the 74-year-old BBC presenter and commentator, the industry believed that youth was the key to winning and increasing audiences. "Why should age matter with women?" he told the Radio Times. "Women mature elegantly and better than men very often. I don't think age should be a factor for women appearing on television."

He said the time had come for television to re-examine its ageist culture and make the necessary changes. "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," said Dimbleby.

"That's the way the TV, not just the BBC, industry works. And I think it's wrong. If you look at American TV you'll find it keeps women at work. It's just a cultural shift that's needed," he said. "And I agree that it is demeaning to women and I also think it's a crazy loss of talent."

Dimbleby and John Simpson, a longtime BBC presenter, were pulled into the debate about sexism at the corporation two years ago after Ford wondered how such "charming dinosaurs" continued to win contracts when female colleagues "of the same age, the same intelligence and the same rather baggy looks" did not.

Anna Ford
Anna Ford bemoans the lack of older women on TV. Photograph: Hugo Glendinning Photograph: Hugo Glendinning

Asked by the magazine about Ford getting angry over the issues of sexism and ageism, he could not resist a dig. "Well, I don't know that she does," he said. "I think she gets terribly cross about not being on television herself, I think."

Although Dimbleby confessed that he did not enjoy being interviewed, he revealed that, unlike David Cameron and Boris Johnson, he was happy to reflect on his time as a member of Oxford University's infamous Bullingdon Club.

"I loved being elected to the Bullingdon Club and I'm very proud of the uniform that I can still get into," he said. "We never broke windows or got wildly drunk. It was a completely different organisation from what it clearly became when Boris Johnson, David Cameron and George Osborne joined, who seem to be ashamed of it, pulling their photographs and so on."

He and his peers, Dimbleby added, "never did these disgusting, disgraceful things that Boris did".


Sam Jones and agency

The GuardianTramp

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