BBC DIRECTOR general Tony Hall announces with a smirk of self-satisfaction that half of regional breakfast show hosts will be female by the end of 2014. Why? Is he saying that half the men currently doing the job aren’t up to scratch? And, if so, why haven’t local managers done something about it and sacked the useless sods?
Or is he saying that perfectly capable presenters are going to be turfed out of a job just to meet some artificial quota? Either way, the employment lawyers must be rubbing their hands with glee, the money-grabbing bastards.
I must admit that extraordinary statements like this annoy me. What if the shoe, or stiletto, was on the other foot? We’d never hear the fucking end of it. And what exactly is going to happen as the clock ticks down over the next 15 months? Will male presenters stumble bleary-eyed into the studio one morning for their Partridge slot only to find that their copy of the 1972 Wisden, bottle of Covonia and tube of Just For Men has been swept from their desk to be replaced by a lucky gonk, a cup of peppermint tea and a packet of Feminax?
How on earth can there be a sensible selection process when the dice have been so clearly loaded in favour of women? I suspect that the Beeb will have to resort to handsomely paying off their inconvenient males at our expense… again.
And I’ve not even mentioned the damage to listener numbers. It is no secret that the only programmes that keep local radio respectable in terms of audience are the breakfast shows, and by a massive margin. A few lost souls might tune in at drive-time to get the traffic news, but for most of the day the airwaves are as deserted as the works canteen in a Syrian chemical weapons plant. There is nobody listening, as anyone who has ever heard the plaintive cries of a local radio DJ desperate for a phone-in caller will attest. Breakfast is the only show in town and the best presenters naturally end up on it. Remove these champions of the channel along with the audiences they attract and the BBC Trust could suddenly turn very difficult in the next budget round.
Now I don’t want you to think that I’m at all sexist. In my past life I regularly promoted women to management roles on the simple grounds that if they were the best man for the job, then they got it. (One, a chief sub, got pissed at a Christmas party and took a swing at me – impeccable credentials in any newsroom.) But what I didn’t do was appoint a woman just for the sake of it, because that way failure lies with the collateral damage spreading to every female on the staff.
I don’t believe for one minute that there is still a glass ceiling for women in the media. That Tony Hall seems to think there is probably says more about his own lumbering dinosaur of an organisation than it does about the rest of us.
THE LATEST regional ABC figures are an absolute nightmare, which is no surprise when you see previously respectable and admired local newspapers reduced to hollow shells of their former selves. The very real concern now is that some owners simply don’t give a fuck any more and are just milking the cash cow until it keels over. How else do you explain significant cover price increases coupled with significant reductions in service and quality?
This may be a palatable end game for bonus-hungry bosses and mercenary shareholders, but it takes no account of the human damage such a strategy involves – the men and women living with the permanent fear of being suddenly unable to feed their children or pay their mortgages – not to mention the poor bloody readers, who’ll be left at the mercy of unregulated councils and corrupt politicians.
They should be ashamed of themselves, if only they knew what shame was.
I DO DESPAIR about the sheer ignorance some reporters display about their own industry. Take the woman on BBC Breakfast this morning, doing a pointless and uninformative vox-pop piece from a newsagent’s shop in Huddersfield, who seemed surprised that the story of the government’s defeat over Syria wasn’t on every front page.
I’m sorry, love, but that was The North. Those newspapers would have been printed at least an hour before the vote came in. You might get 3am specials in London; oop there they’re lucky the news doesn’t still come by carrier pigeon. I would have thought any self-respecting journalist would have known that. And I would have thought that any self-respecting producer would have stopped the daft bint repeating the inane observation every bloody half hour throughout the morning.
The Grey Cardigan has been in newspapers since the days of hot metal and expense accounts. After a lengthy career as chief sub on several regional newspapers, plus a multitude of shifts on the nationals, he was appointed editor of the Evening Beast in 2009 before being ignominiously 'rationalised' last year. He is currently collecting gas in jam jars in case the Russians cut us off. @thegreycardigan