U.K. Television Sport Executives Insist Female TV Presenters Chosen On Merit
Female sports presenters and pundits "are appointed on merit, TV bosses have insisted as they came under fire from an MP for writing off older women," according to the PA. Labour MP Jim Sheridan said at a Commons culture, media and sport committee on Tuesday that those appearing on screen were young and attractive "with one or two exceptions" -- while male colleagues tended to be middle-aged, fat and bald. TV sport execs "pointed to a host of experienced females on the airwaves." But they were forced to admit that "they had no figures to back their claims that mixed lineups attracted more viewers" -- with another MP accusing them of "nauseating" political correctness. Senior figures from the BBC, Sky Sports News, BT Sport and Channel 4 "were being quizzed by the committee at the start of a new inquiry into women's sport." Sheridan said, "Is it coincidental that the vast majority of women presenters, pundits, etc. are all very young, attractive people, with one or two exceptions?" BBC Dir of Sport Barbara Slater hit back, saying, "I really stand by that they are there on merit, on authority, on credibility and on a long track record of excellence in sports broadcasting. We have some fantastic women presenters who have long-standing careers, genuine expertise and are there absolutely to enhance the credibility of what we do. We have Sue Barker, we have Gabby Logan, we have Clare Balding, we have Suzi Perry now doing Formula One, we have a new sports correspondent Natalie Pirks." Sky Sports News Exec Editor Andy Cairns said, "Women make up 30 percent of our audience and they go to football matches, they go to cricket matches, they play sport. It's quite right that they are reflected in our presenter lineup." BT Sport CEO Simon Green said having female presenters and pundits "makes for a richer viewing experience" and "often does make a difference in terms of how an audience will react." Sheridan also questioned whether TV firms sought out specific advertising from firms "which would appeal to female viewers to be shown during women's sport." Sheridan: "If it's a male sport would you go to a beer company or something like that?" He was told that Nivea "was among the sponsors of the England men's football team" and tire firm Continental the women's (PA, 12/4).