The BBC is involved in yet another ageist and sexist conundrum following the surprising dismissal of popular BBC Radio Devon presenter Judi Spiers.
Revealing on Monday to her audience live on air that she is to be dropped after a successful 15 years at the station, the 62-year-old said she was “saddened beyond belief”.
Spiers is one of the corporation’s longest-serving female presenters and formerly hosted the BBC television programme, Pebble Mill. This is to be her final week at BBC Radio Devon.
The announcement has ignited protests across social media with many listeners wielding the #bringbackjudi hashtag and putting their names to an online petition to get her reinstated. The swirling cyberstorm prompted the station’s editor, Mark Grinnell, to offer an explanation.
In a formally dry and predictable statement released via the BBC Radio Devon Facebook page, Grinnell shone a dull light on the situation.
“I want to assure you that the decision was not taken lightly,” he said. “Judi has presented in the same slot for a long time and like a lot of Local Radio presenters she has a passionate audience.” Despite her loyal following, Grinnell explained “However, after a lot of thought, we felt the time had come for a change. All BBC Local Radio stations schedules – as well as national and other commercial stations – do evolve from time to time. A variety of reasons are taken into account on these occasions, including the measured performance of both the station and the programme, the balance of the line-up and the station’s editorial aims.”
The post did predictably little to quell the anger of listeners and many are citing this as just another example of ageism in the BBC, particularly towards female broadcasters. Complaints have been raised that the station is getting rid of their only female weekday presenter.
Recent research stated that when it comes to UK television presenters aged over 50, only 18% are women. It’s an issue that plagues all corners of the TV industry yet the BBC has been brought to account on such matters more often than its competitors in recent years.
Award-winning BBC reporters Olenka Frenkiel and Liz Mackean are just two of the recent names recently ousted by the corporation who have voiced their negative experiences and refusals to sign gagging confidentiality agreements. Frenkiel, who had a 30-year career at the BBC and was their first reporter at the Berlin Wall when it was brought down, stated she felt “frozen out” once she hit 50. Mackean, former presenter of Newsnight, said that whilst men also feel insecure the lack of older women “does suggest a gender bias”.
Is it right to clear out older faces to make way for fresh young ones, even when the the more experienced names are doing just fine? “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is what many are saying and they have a strong case.