Stop blaming ageism, ladies - you've had your moment on TV, says Sue

Richard Alleyne

Sue Lawley, the veteran broadcaster, says her female contemporaries should stop blaming ageism for the demise of their careers and just enjoy the fact they had their "moments in the sun".

The 65-year-old, one of the so-called golden girl presenters, along with Moira Stuart, Anna Ford and Angela Rippon, said the BBC should be allowed to employ whoever it wants in front of the camera regardless of age and looks.


She said that if and when the time comes that "they don't want us, well that happens" and then people should be glad they had the opportunity in the first place.

The comments by Lawley, whose 36-year-career included anchoring the BBC Nine O'Clock News and Desert Island Discs, fly in the face of many of her similar aged broadcasters.

Stuart (61), Ford (67) and Rippon (66) have all spoken out claiming that women, unlike men, are sidelined by broadcasters when they get older.

Miriam O'Reilly (53) the former Countryfile host, won an age discrimination claim against the corporation.

"I believe the broadcasters have the right to put on the front of their programmes the people that they want," said Lawley.

"Whether their judgment is correct is another matter.

"Those of us who have appeared on TV have enjoyed our moments in the sun and if, after five years, they don't want us, well that happens."

Lawley, who recently became a grandmother, effectively retired from full-time presenting in 2008. She said that the idea that women could have it all was a myth and that she had had to make many compromises in her career.

"Women can't 'have it all' and if you chose to have a career as well as a family there will always be compromises," she said.

"I might have missed a child's first word or first step or a performance in a school production but they, and I, have survived.

She said she was offered Breakfast TV and the Today programme on Radio Four, but turned it down for personal reasons.

She said she was not a fan of the current trend of newscasters "standing up and waving their arms around", preferring the more traditional approach of being behind the desk delivering the news as straight and objectively as possible.

Lawley was speaking in an interview with her local paper in Devon where she and her second husband Hugh Williams, a television executive, spend much of their time.

Her comments are likely to reignite the debate about sexism and ageism in broadcasting, especially at the BBC.

In 2007, Ford said she was exasperated with "on-screen" ageism. She also criticised the dumbing-down of standards and berated the BBC for ignoring its older viewers.

Likewise Rippon and Stuart have argued that unlike their male counterparts they were retired by their bosses for being "too old" as they approached 60.