BBC Breakfast’s business presenter Stephanie McGovern has said that people inside the BBC treated her as “too common for telly”.
Writing in this week’s Radio Times, the presenter, who has been the main business presenter on BBC Breakfast for nearly a year, said that she was overlooked for promotion because of the way she spoke.
McGovern, who comes from Middlesbrough, wrote: “Despite being a business journalist at the BBC for ten years, working behind the scenes on our high-profile news programmes, I was viewed by some in the organisation to be “too common for telly”.
She said viewers can also be cruel when commenting on her accent.
“The first question I get will be, “What are Bill and Susanna like in real life?” – I’m happy to report they’re lovely – and then it’s, “Where’s your accent from?”, which I like to chat about. But, unfortunately, there are quite a few people out there who are nasty about the way I talk.
“You would think that after nearly two years in the job, people would be used to my Teesside tones. To be fair most are, but there are still some viewers who can’t accept that someone with my accent can have a brain. It means that I regularly get abuse about it. I’ve had tweets questioning whether I really did go to university because surely I would have lost my accent if I did; a letter suggesting, very politely, that I get correction therapy; and an email saying I should get back to my council estate and leave the serious work to the clever folk.”
McGovern also used her spot in this week’s Radio Times to rail against the ignorance of people who assume she cannot use English properly because of the inflexions of her voice.
“The other misconception that comes through in my “fan mail” is that people with regional accents can’t use the English language correctly. I, like many annoying pedants, will wince when someone says “less” when they should have said “fewer”. But my “poor” sounds like poo-ah, not pore; and my “grass” rhymes with mass, not farce. What’s wrong with that?
“It’s inevitable that not everyone will like me, and that some will find me annoying. That’s fine. All presenters deal with that. What’s scary is the ignorance about what having a regional accent means, or indeed doesn’t mean. It certainly doesn’t equal ignorance “
She said she was heartened to read the thoughts of actress Lesley Sharp who earlier this month in Radio Times “expressed her fury at the frequent association of northern accents with ignorance”.
She also said she was inspired by the example of her editor Alison Ford who died earlier this month from cancer.
“She was the woman who took a gamble on me when other managers thought she was mad. Despite being a business journalist at the BBC for ten years, working behind the scenes on our high-profile news programmes, I was viewed by some in the organisation to be “too common for telly”. I remember at the end of one BBC job interview being told by the manager: “I didn’t realise people like you were clever.” Sad, but true.”
A BBC spokesperson said: “Steph does a fantastic job on BBC Breakfast. If her accent was an issue for some in the past during her career then it certainly isn’t now.”