Older Women on TV

I was a little ahead of the curve on this one – I wrote this letter to the Independent before the fuss over the removal of a female BBC CountryFile presenter on age grounds:

Sirs,

I find it difficult to believe that I am alone in getting very irritated at the whiny older women who complain so bitterly about being under-represented on television these days.

Someone really should point out to them that the reason their management specifically, and the public in general, have lost interest in them is not because of their gender and not because of their age, but because of their whining. It’s boring!

Rantzen, O’Reilly, Philips, Scott and the like all forgot that they were here to keep us entertained, not be part of some misguided sexist campaign on behalf of their own small demographic. I miss Moira Stuart, though, who was dropped because her cut-glass delivery was at variance to the regionalisation of the BBC and not for any other reason.

Older women will always be under-represented on television for as long as the chips on their shoulders are bigger than the public’s interest in them. Lose the chips and they might be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

Paul Harper

Bust Stop?

No particular rant to this one, just a dig at some poor over-worked, underpaid Independent sub-editor who mis-captioned a photo:

Sirs,

“8:30pm: Fires lit to keep protesters warm. A bust stop is burnt down” (page 2)

I thought Playtex products had been flameproof since the sixties outbreaks of similar events?

Paul Harper

Almost Fooled, But Not Quite

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, one of my least-favourite and most self-obsessed of The Independent’s stable of columnists went off on one because some Tory councillor had dared to Twitter something she didn’t like:

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/yasmin-alibhai-brown/article2134151.ece

Prompting this:

Sirs,

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown very nearly had me fooled. I had reached the final few column-inches of her piece on language today when she reassuring reverted to form and all was well with the world.

Instead of a carefully considered piece on the place in the world of the English language, it turns out to be a several hundred word piece moaning about a piece of crass Twitter flippancy that was massively over-reacted to by her and her PC acolytes.

With the possible exception of Julie Birchill, there is no writer on your staff who uses more first-person pronouns, or who plays the gender/race/religion cards as often as she. I find it quite understandable how her smug and self-satisfied output would drive someone to consider such a Twitter posting.

The post was, of course, totally inappropriate, despite being well-aimed. A stoning is out of proportion to the irritation caused, however considerable. A mild sanding-down or gentle pebbling might have been more in order, just to knock some humility into Ms -Brown. (Clue for the clueless – that was a parody of the Twitter posting, not a serious suggestion).

A lack of humility like, for example, using a national newspaper column to moan about a sub-140 character post that nobody would have seen had there not been a massively disproportionate fuss made about it.

Paul Harper

School Sports

Harriet Walker in The Independent said what I had felt for a long time about school sports:

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/harriet-walker-lets-end-the-tyranny-of-sports-jocks-2140334.html

Prompting this:

Sirs,

Thank you Harriet Walker for telling it like it is about school sports. What an utter waste of time and money that subject is, I hated every minute of it.

“It’s character-building” they cry. No it isn’t. It’s a means whereby those blessed with an over-abundance of competitiveness and physique can compensate for their embarrassment in classroom topics. As though chasing a bag of wind around a lump of grass getting shouted at by C2DE types in some way defines a national psyche.

“It builds self-respect” they claim, as if following the example of those team-players with self-respect by the metric tonne – the bankers – was some kind of ideal aspiration. They would have benefitted from less sport and more home economics in my view.

School sports builds self-loathing and fosters depression more than any other subject and any moves to clip its wings has my support. In both senses of the word.

Paul Harper

Which got published as:

BBC NUJ Strike

In early November 2010, the “journalists” at the BBC went on strike for a few days, prompting this to The Independent:

Sirs,

I would like to thank the BBC for the quality of the coverage put out during the NUJ strike. My one regret is that the strike has to end.

I say this in all sincerity. Having some lesser-seen faces presenting the news made it fresh, relevant and without barriers. Usually, the self-important ego-filled talking heads seem to think that journalism consists of insulting people and pushing their own opinions forward.

Having a collection of news reporters that concentrated on reporting rather than “covering” was a breath of fresh air.

Also, the very annoying habit of having a talking head interview another talking head was absent. This is also a vast improvement, especially when the interviewed is that awful Robert Peston chap who can’t string a sentence together without half a dozen “um”s and an equal number of first person pronouns. He also doesn’t know as much about economics and finance as he thinks he does, being wrong as often as he is right.

So, if I might be so bold, if the BBC has to save money, it should get rid of a lot of the over-priced “journalists”, promote the current second tier people and start an apprenticeship scheme to get fresh blood in.

Seriously. The strike coverage was *so* much better than normal.

Best regards

Paul Harper

Death of AV Support

The Independent’s John Rentoul wrote a piece bemoaning the lack of support for AV:

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/john-rentoul/john-rentoul-here-lies-electoral-reform-rip-2127298.html

Prompting this:

Sirs,

John Rentoul’s piece on the drastic reduction in support for voting reform was interesting but didn’t quite hit the nail on the head.

The reason that previously vigorous support for the proposal is withering and dying is the behaviour of the LibDems in the coalition. AV is a mechanism purely designed to give them more MPs. Since they have shown themselves so keen to drop every ethical position they ever held in exchange for some “power”, they have in effect turned a political party into a small collection of warm bodies to be whored out to anyone willing to pay.

The British public are deservedly unimpressed by politicians at the best of times, but when the sewer rats of the BNP are shown to have more moral consistency than the LibDems, then there is no chance of AV being passed.

It is just a shame that the price of moving Nick Clegg some 20 feet diagonally across the floor of the House of Commons is the almost complete dismantling of Britain’s welfare state.

Paul Harper

Julie Birchill: Trainee Bitch

The Independent’s columnist Julie Birchill got all snotty about gay men not worshipping her:

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/columnists/julie-burchill/julie-burchill-gay-man-lays-into-women-fine-but-when-its-the-other-way-around-2123387.html

Prompting this:

Sirs,

Oh dear oh dear. Young Ms Birchill, in her rant against gay men, takes her usual long blinkered run-up and predictably misses the target by a country mile.

Generally speaking, gay men worship women, especially talented, beautiful ones. Perhaps this is the source of her ire? Chunky, whiny and over-rated ones rarely get a look-in so perhaps she’s feeling left out?

She bemoans the prominence of gay men among women’s fashion designers, hair stylists and the like without pausing in her rant to consider who the customers are. Women. Also, quite by accident, and despite him being misquoted and taken out of context, she actually reinforces what Stephen Fry said about female sexuality, coming across as she did like some frigid matron.

Finally, she queries the popularity of drag artists. That’s easy to answer. They’re bitchier, funnier and usually better singers than most women trying to do the same job. Ms Birchill can only aspire to their standards.

She signs off threatening a bitchfest. Well bring it on, sister. It will be a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent.

The Gay and Gorgeous Paul Harper