"If you don't want to know the score then look away now."
It’s more than 10-years since I did my last ‘live’ report for ITV 1’s ‘News at Ten’. It was outside the Football Association’s old HQ in Soho. I remember it for a variety of reasons. Most notably because it was Bonfire Night and I used the phrase “it’ll be fireworks for the FA” somewhere in the piece.
I got a torrent of abuse for that. I thought it was cute. But the viewer, like the customer I suppose, is always right.
It all came flooding back a few days ago when I was invited by ITN to celebrate their 60 years as the news provider for ITV.
I was a regular front of camera TV performer during my time with the company. Newscasting the ITV sport on a Saturday night, usually with the late Carol Barnes, beamed me into so many front rooms.
Strange looking back. If we dropped below 10-million viewers on a Saturday there were long faces in the office on a Monday morning. Because of the nature of TV today anything above 3 or 4 million is considered outstanding.
But times were different then. Fewer channels to choose from. And of course the viewing figures of the ‘ITV News and Sport’ reflected the bulletin’s position in the middle of a popular Saturday night schedule.
But professionally, it all meant a certain recognition and indeed respect for those of us who worked regularly on the programme.
Suddenly, out of the blue, my time as a television ‘face’ came to an end. It was abrupt, brutal to be honest and with little acknowledgment to the nuances of employment law.
But that was ITN’s way then. And the handsome pay off was the spoonful of sugar that helped the medicine go down.
But I was male, white – still am by the way - and approaching the change. Nothing medical you understand. No, just that television time that pre-empts the changing of the guard.
So I don’t buy this ‘older women out older men in’ TV debate that gets aired from time to time. Ageism affects both sexes in television. But inevitably some, both male and female, manage to beat the drop.
It’s just the way the television business operates. It reflects life really. Older people, viewers, apparently prefer watching younger people at work. Whilst the young are prepared to do anything, well almost, to fulfil their ambitions.
It’s certainly the way most of my generation of journalists ‘got on’. Although very few are still on screen today.
We can still do the job of course. With assurance, professionalism and a bit of style. Experience is priceless. But it’s just not the way that the TV world generally works in the UK.
I’m not old actually! And I work as hard today running my own media business Media-Vu.co.uk as I ever have done. But in front of camera - well the credits have rolled.
And if you want to know how old I am – “look away now”. I developed that on a Saturday night by the way.
So how old you ask? Old Graham is fine! Well a gentleman never reveals his age.
I think your comment: "...the young are prepared to do anything, well almost, to fulfil their ambitions" nails it. With a business such as TV there'll always be younger people snapping at the heels of their elders. As we age and our experience grows, perhaps our remuneration expectations do too and I wonder if 'changing the guard' isn't partly to do with economics and budgets?
Salaries aside, however, as a viewer I know we want to trust those we choose to watch and that trust is rooted in on-screen presence and gravitas. There's clearly an age difference between David Attenborough and Dr Brian Cox yet it's their on-screen presence that I buy. For me it has little to do with their age and everything to do with their authority and ability to communicate their story.
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