There is little to add to the welter of commentary that has been written about Miriam O’Reilly since the former Countryfile presenter won her case for age discrimination against the BBC.
Except….pretty much all the comment has supported O’Reilly, whose sacking is widely seen as an injustice, her stand brave and proper. The BBC has been ridiculed and rebuked for its senior executives’ weirdly complacent defence that this is just how things are done in television.
Given that response, on what basis did the executives decide that we want to see only very youthful people on screen? Why was Botox recommended to O’Reilly before she was sacked? Do they research these things at the BBC? Does anyone actually investigate viewers’ preferences? If so, and they are responding to them, they should tell us that we are being hypocritical. If not, if their insistence on youth is arbitrary and whimsical, they should be ashamed of themselves.
The population is ageing. The average age of BBC viewers is 50 – customers who are repeatedly insulted by the absence of people their own age on screen, presumably on the grounds of being too ugly or unpleasant to contemplate.
The pleasure that has been taken in O’Reilly’s vindication suggests that you can tell older people that they should be invisible and silent only for so long. You will reach a point where imposing your own prejudiced notions of what is attractive and acceptable can no longer persuade people that they are too past it to matter. It just makes them angry.