Woman’s Hour presenter Jenni Murray says there are “not enough” older women in TV presenting roles, and that too often female broadcasters are judged on their age and appearance rather than what they are actually saying.
The 66-year-old, who joined the BBC Radio 4 programme almost three decades ago, was responding to Ofcom chief Sharon White’s comments criticising the BBC for failing to promote older women on screen.
In an interview with the FT, the media watchdog boss said the corporation was “not doing as good a job as it should be” in its treatment of older women.
“I hope the BBC doesn’t decide it wants to get rid of older women, obviously,” Murray joked, adding that she agreed that there was a lack of older female broadcasters on TV.
Speaking to RadioTimes.com at Cheltenham Literature Festival, she explained: “It is really important that we see and hear women who are like ourselves. Anne Robinson is just doing another series; she’s 72 now, but it’s not enough.
“I really don’t understand why it’s OK to have a really quite old men presenting the news, which we’ve had for years and years and years, and then not equally old women presenting the news.”
The BBC cited Murray when it first responded to Ofcom chief White’s comments, saying, “We don’t think any broadcaster does better in representing older women than the BBC… We’re proud of the fact that the BBC of today has a huge range of women presenters across TV and radio including Mary Berry, Carol Klein, Anne Robinson, Felicity Kendal, Joan Bakewell, Jenni Murray, Mary Beard, Gloria Hunniford, Angela Rippon, Julia Somerville and Kirsty Wark.”
Murray also admitted that her own mother had scrutinised her appearances on television, telling her after watching her on Newsnight: “Oh I’m sorry love, I wasn’t really listening to what you were saying but you know that red top you had on? Well the colour’s a little bit high for your colouring.”
She added: “I suspect that an awful lot of women look at women on television and think, ‘Ooh why’s she wearing those earrings?’ And we’ve got to get over that.”
The radio presenter, who has just published her latest book A History of Britain in 21 Women, is exasperated with the focus on what women in public life wear and how they look.
“How about just seeing us the way we are? And listening to what we are saying?” she suggested.
“It makes me furious when a Home Secretary can go into the House of Commons and the only thing that’s written about her is that her cleavage was showing. It’s insane, we have to get over it.”