Charlotte Green says the BBC is “unrecognisable” now compared to the 1970s in terms of its attitude to female broadcasters.
The veteran Radio 4 newsreader said at the Cheltenham Literature Festival that Director-General Tony Hall is making a particular point of trying to promote older women on television.
Green admitted that a presenter’s look was more important on television than on radio, but insisted that much was being done to “redress the balance” when it comes to female broadcasters.
“It doesn’t really matter what you look like behind a radio microphone. Visuals are incredibly important with television,” she said.
“I do think generally the BBC is doing an awful lot to redress the balance. Certainly Tony Hall is very pro having more older women on television, which I think is a good thing. There are a lot of middle-aged, late middle-aged women in the world, and why should they not be represented just as much as younger women?” Green asked.
The broadcaster, who took voluntary redundancy from BBC Radio 4 in 2013 but regularly returns to Radio 5 Live to read the classified football results, read out a comment made by her first presentation editor Jim Black in the 1970s to illustrate the change in attitude at the BBC.
“This was made a few years before I joined the BBC, and I think he [Jim Black] probably had to eat his words. He wrote, ‘I have never found a woman who could read the news as well as a man. A news announcer needs to have authority, consistency and reliability. Women may have one or two of these qualities, but not all three.’
“Amazingly that was just a few years before I joined in 1978, but to be fair to him he did take me on,” Green continued. “I remember the very first time he gave me a news script to read, he was quite blunt. He just said, ‘You’ll do.’ That was praise indeed I think from him.”
She added, “That was in the mid-70s. The BBC is unrecognisable now from that time. It has changed radically for the better. We all now laugh about what Jim Black said, but it’s definitely improved for the better.”