Colette Fitzpatrick: Face it ladies, ageism does have its place on TV -- I mean, who really wants to watch Vincent Browne on Xposé?

Colette Fitzpatrick

Former Countryfile presenter Miriam O'Reilly won her age discrimination case against the BBC this week after being sacked from the show.

When Anne Robinson returned to present Watchdog on the BBC, she said, "All television is sexist and ageist. If there was a lovely blonde with huge breasts and long legs who had my experience and wit, I'd be out of a job."

Did either of those presenters take issue with the fact that they may in part have been hired in the first place because of their appearance or sex? And if they were, isn't that unfair on young men trying to break into the business?

TV is a lot about appearance. But brains and beauty are not mutually exclusive. Some of the most attractive newswomen in this country are serious, hard hitting journalists, Miriam O' Callaghan, being the obvious example.

There's a lot of money riding on TV executives hiring people with the right look. We watch people we like to watch. Your 'look' must appeal to the audience and to new viewers that producers want to attract. Studies have shown that even older people like looking at younger people. But that's not always the case.

TV3 is a station wholly associated with female presenters. But on closer examination, we are not all 25 years old and size eight. Audience figures for Midday have grown exponentially since it switched tack to an all female, but crucially to an all 'real' women show.

The programme is presented by women in their 70s (Mary O' Rourke TD); 60s (former Justice Minister Nora Owen); 50s, 40s and 30s. We are a pot pourri of wrinkles, excess weight, bad hair and bad attitude.

The fact is, a pretty, young, slip of a thing in her 20s talking about politics, family pressures and mid-life crises would be chewed up and spat out by the presenters and the audience.

Most women wouldn't identify with that type of dolly mop. And women viewers are what the advertisers and therefore TV management want.

Xpose on the other hand is all about youth, fashion and celebrity. Who'd want Vincent Browne telling you Posh Spice had a bun in the oven? No offence, Vincent, but you are not my personal style icon.

Robinson is right, television is ageist. But maybe we female presenters should also look to ourselves if we want our age and appearance not to be an issue. By posing for pictures and happily talking about how we keep in shape, we may be actively encouraging others to focus on our image . . . and asking for a limited shelf life.

It's a great week to be gay

It's good to be gay this week. Certain foreign same-sex legal relationships (including same-sex marriage) were recognised as civil partnerships from yesterday. It's all part of legislation to recognise, protect and support same-sex unions, which became active at the start of the year.

And we're more at home with this concept than might previously have been thought. The most recent polls indicate that the majority of us don't think civil partnership will undermine marriage. And most of us also believe gay people should be allowed to marry.

It still amazes me, though, how many people who consider themselves to be intelligent, liberal people will privately make gay jokes and confess that they wouldn't like their son or daughter to be gay.


The same people would baulk at the assertion that they were homophobic. Sorry, but from where I'm standing, you are.

The old, "I wouldn't like them to have a hard life" line is thrown out as if their feelings come from a more altruistic place. They don't. It's really a reflection of a parent who, if she or he is really honest with themselves, would admit that they're really not 100pc comfortable with gay people or more specifically what they do in their private lives.

This just in. You shouldn't get hung up on what ANYONE does in their private life, gay or straight. It's PRIVATE. In doing so, aren't you just perpetuating a way of thinking that should have gone out with The Flood?

Look, life is hard for everyone. It's not just gay people who are bullied or prone to attacks. Don't be the mum or dad whose gay son or daughter's life is made even harder because they can't bring themselves to tell you how they really are, because they know or suspect how you really feel.