‘Presenters should not be recruited to fill lesbian or pensioner quotas’: BBC’s Michael Buerk hits out at television’s political correctness
Former BBC newsreader Michael Buerk has hit out at political correctness – claiming that bosses should not be forced to recruit ‘another six lesbians’ or pensioners to fill quotas.
The veteran broadcaster, 64, said presenters are not put on the screens because they are skilled but because their face fits – and axed stars should ‘get over it’.
He spoke out in a documentary presented by Miriam O’Reilly who won an age discrimination tribunal case against the BBC after she was axed from Countryside.
The panel heard the 53-year-old was apparently told ‘careful with those wrinkles when high definition comes in.’
But Mr Buerk said presenters are chosen because they tick the right boxes – and are the axed when fashion moves on.
He said in the interview, to be broadcast on ITV Tonight: ‘If you’ve been hired because you are young and pretty, because you are mincingly camp, because you’ve ticked a particular ethnic box and then you are no younger young and pretty or the fashions have moved on and you suddenly don’t have a job – get over it. It’s showbusiness.’
He also hit out at politically correct appointments in the interview.
The presenter added: ‘The problem is that at the other extreme of the argument, the idea of putting people on television – which is a non-job which is terribly well paid, where you don’t have to think too much, or work too hard – and giving people these jobs purely on the grounds that we need another six Asians, or we need another six lesbians, or we need another six pensioners, is to my mind almost worse.’
The outspoken television star has previously criticised the women-dominated management culture at the BBC.
Dumped Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Phillips, 67, told the programme she did not think she was replaced by Alesha Dixon, then 31, because she was too old.
‘She (Alesha) was a different person hired to give a different approach,’ she said.
‘I’ve never spoken about it other than to say, as I did, I was on a one-year contract and I had no entitlement to be brought back.’
A poll commissioned by the programme found that 45 per cent of viewers wanted to see more older presenters on television while 28 per cent said they did not.
A majority – 60 per cent – said that the media has an obsession with youth, while 27 per cent disagreed.