There’s a new contender for the award for the biggest load of bullsh-t spoken in the media this year.

The nominee is the spokesperson at Nine who told the Herald Sun’s Megan McNaught today that the attractiveness of women reporters is an irrelevant consideration when it comes to their employment status.

“Reporters and journalists are always judged on their merits and abilities and contract renewals have nothing to do with age, race or s-x.”

Now this is patently crap, as the current dissembling and unraveling at Nine ably demonstrates.

The allegation made by rejected correspondent Christine Spiteri that Nine news boss, John Westacott, and his colleagues operate an informal f-ckability index for female reporters, is completely unsurprising.

Is it just a coincidence that attractive young vivacious women front TV news cameras alongside their crusty male colleagues while women disappear en masse when they hit thirty-five?

When it comes to rhetorical questions, that one was a waste of precious typing time. It is a given that the industry operates on an ever-replenishing supply of good-looking twenty-something women. The industry just assumes that viewers – both men and women – demand attractive, if not s-xualized, presenters and that ratings are utterly dependent upon it. A commercial network that retained women past “their prime” would be viewed as eccentric and contemptuous of its audience.

The commercial networks don’t want, and generally don’t recruit bimbos. Often their most glamorous employees also happen to be savvy and smart and qualified for roles as reporters. But the networks rarely pick the crème of our broadcast journalism schools. No, they pick the most attractive.

Anyone involved in educating journalists at university level will tell you that is how it operates. The networks get to see the graduates in work placements and surprise, surprise, the people who conform to the network’s “standards for presentation” are invited to stay on.

I wonder whether the real boning at Nine happens in the control room when all the blokes who make these decisions get hard-ons watching the evening bulletin. When that kind of boning stops the other kind starts.

Peter Fray

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