Toksvig wades into TV ageism row

27 October, 2009

The television industry does not value older women as much as their male counterparts, and women tend to get ahead by being young and pretty, comedian Sandi Toksvig has claimed.

Toksvig, 51, who chairs the News Quiz on Radio 4, questioned whether former This Morning co-host Fern Britton would have landed the job if she were applying today, because of widespread ageism.

“Normally they like to pair an older man with a much younger woman. That’s the standard thing,” she told Surrey Life magazine.

“When Fern Britton left [ITV’s] This Morning for instance she was replaced by a much younger, pretty woman. Now I’m sure Holly Willoughby is very talented but put it this way – I question whether Fern would get the job if she was applying today.”

Other presenting pairs include Bruce Forsyth, 81, and Tess Daly, 38, on BBC1’s Strictly Come Dancing; Adrian Chiles, 41, and Christine Bleakley, 29, on The One Show; and Jeff Stelling, 53, and Rachel Riley, 23, on Channel 4’s Countdown.

Toksvig also complained of the lack of women on BBC Radio 2, noting that those who are there are handed the very early slots.

“There isn’t a single woman broadcasting a major show on Radio 2 apart from Sarah Kennedy and she’s on at six o’clock in the morning. That’s the most listened to radio station in the country and there’s hardly any women broadcasting on it,” she said. “Are things as good as they could be? I don’t think so.”

A spokesman for R2 said Toksvig was “entitled to her opinion” but that the station does have a number of female presenters other than Sarah Kennedy, such as Suzi Quatro, Emma Forbes and Claudia Winkleman.

A spokeswoman added: “Two presenters from Steve Wright’s show Janey Lee Grace and ‘The Old Woman’, and travel reporters Sally Boazman and Lynn Bowles also have a prominent and much valued presence in the network’s daytime schedule.”