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Female Newsreaders Recruited as Eye Candy, Researchers Claim

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Female newsreaders are being recruited as “eye candy” by broadcasters, according to academic research conducted at the University of Worcester.

It suggests that women are selected on the basis of their physical attractiveness and that older women are either forced out or put under pressure to hold back the years, with some going as far as having cosmetic procedures.

However, the research found that viewers would like to see more older women reading the news.

One interviewee said: “I think it’s rubbish… It’s being decided on the public’s behalf that they don’t want older women on the television… I would rather have somebody good at their job.” Another said: “The other thing I really object to is when a young woman is placed in the position of co-presenting with an older man and she’s made out to be kind of young and silly… She’s labelled as being unintelligent or lightweight because she’s younger.”

The study found that broadcasters were reinforcing stereotypes about women by choosing young, attractive female newsreaders and pairing them with older men.

Interviews and questionnaires were conducted with senior broadcast journalists, including presenters, editors and producers working across various stations including the BBC, ITV and Al Jazeera English, along with viewers.

According to a former ITV producer, Botox injections, teeth whitening and veneers had become common for female newsreaders. “It’s like Stepford Wives, making everyone look bland,” she said.

Sky News presenter Kay Burley has previously spoken about having an eye lift after turning 40 and a facelift for her 50th birthday. Meanwhile, former Countryfile presenter Miriam O’Reilly, who recently won an employment tribunal case against the BBC on the grounds of ageism, alleged that she had been asked if it was “time for Botox” and warned to be “careful with those wrinkles when high definition comes in”.

The researchers, Journalism lecturer Claire Wolfe and Media and Cultural Studies lecturer Dr Barbara Mitra, said in their report: “The pressure on female newsreaders to look physically attractive and young is part of the wider patriarchal power structures that dominate our society, as well as media organisations. We wonder, therefore, whether we will ever see a woman with grey hair reading the news.”

They added: “Surely, we argue, the decision-makers could challenge such dominant discourses rather than reinforcing them?”

One national newsreader suggested to the researchers that as men got older they gained authority and gravitas, whereas “it’s very difficult to be an older woman.”

The research found that audiences felt older presenters carried more credibility and were more trustworthy.

The researchers said: “The lack of women with grey hair, compared with men, is worrying as it supports the trend that women are not allowed to age, but have to remain young and physically attractive. Similarly, the belittling of women who are young and attractive is also worrying as it bases intelligence on superficial looks.”

To read the full report please visit http://journalism-education.org/2012/04/newsreaders-as-eye-candy/