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Return of the Golden Girls?

Faced with a backlash against ageism on the box, TV channels are said to be considering the return of more older female presenters to our screens. But who would you like to see again? Katie Linsell looks back at the TV careers of some Scottish greats

• Former Countryfile presenter Miriam O'Reilly, during a press conference at the Chamber of Shipping in central London, after winning her landmark claim against the BBC for age discrimination. Picture: PA

IT HAS traditionally been unseemly to mention a lady's age, and perhaps still should be. But could the startling victory against ageism of former Countryfile host Miriam O'Reilly (pictured below) in an employment tribunal against the BBC see a revival of mature talent on Scottish television screens?

The 53-year-old claimed she was unfairly dropped from the rural affairs show after being told, notoriously, it was "time for Botox". Winning an apology and a pledge that the Corporation would "discuss working with her again in the future".

Ladbrokes was giving odds last night on which BBC veterans, men and women, could make a sensational comeback on the heels of the ruling.

Michael Buerk, 64, a household name since his Ethiopian famine reports in the 1980s, was the best bet at 7/4, with Blue Peter's John Noakes and Peter Purves lower down the list at 50/1.

Could Scotland see calls for a reprise of the likes of Mary Marquis, or Viv Lumsden?

Scottish broadcast journalist Charles Fletcher of Caledonia Media says he would like to see renewed exposure for the likes of Shereen Nanjiani.

Nanjiani moved to big success at BBC Radio Scotland, after she took redundancy from STV, where she was its longest-serving female news presenter.

"I would love to see her back on television," he says. "She has the wonderful ability as a broadcaster to sound authoritative but at the same time she has that fantastic twinkle in her eye and she is able to engage with viewers."

Veteran television reporter and presenter Louise Batchelor, who now works mostly in radio, says: "There are definitely a disproportionate number of older men presenting compared with the number of women. I have no idea why that is but it's wrong.

"Older men like Bruce Forsyth and John Craven are still big household names. I'd like to see the situation changed, and I think it will, judging by the reaction to this week's news.

"People don't mind seeing older women on TV, plus we have a more enlightened attitude now towards women working."

1 Louise Batchelor

After beginning her career as a newspaper journalist Ms Batchelor, now 57, worked for the BBC for 30 years, starting on BBC Radio Scotland when it was founded in 1978. She has also reported for Reporting Scotland, Newsnight, Newsroom South East and numerous other programmes. Over 15 years ago she took up the post of transport and environment correspondent with BBC Scotland and twice won the British Environment and Media award for her coverage of environmental issues. She now works as a freelance journalist – as well as director of the Fair Isle Bird Observatory. "TV execs have research that which suggests they need younger women," she said. "But I think times have changed."

2 Mary Marquis

Described by Loraine Kelly as the "Joan Collins of Scotland" she was known for her immaculate appearance on screen, and came to define an era of television. In 1961 Ms Marquis became the first person seen on screen at Border TV, opening the station's transmission with the words "Good evening and welcome to Border Television".

She said she would keep her job as an on-screen continuity announcer for a month, but it became her career for 27 years. She went on to host Reporting Scotland until 1988. At a time when women newsreaders were still unusual Ms Marquis frequently featured on news bulletins broadcast across the whole of the UK in the extremely popular Nationwide from 1969. In 1983 she was made MBE and was honoured with an award for Special Contribution to Scottish Broadcasting' at the 2007 Scottish Bafta awards.

3 Selina Scott

After winning an ageism case against Channel Five in 2008, when the channel reneged on an agreement she would cover Natasha Kaplinsky's maternity leave, Ms Scott, 59, has become a lobbyist for the cause. Yesterday she was hard at work denouncing the "manipulative techniques and false promises of the mandarins who control our airwaves", and blamed an ageist culture on the rising power of manipulative talent agents. She has worked with Ageism UK and Equal Justice to produce a report on the BBC's employment of women over the age of 50. Best known as the face of BBC Breakfast and The Clothes Show in the late 1980s.

4 Fiona Armstrong

Ms Armstrong, 54, was given a renewed contract by the BBC as part of the broadcaster's attempts to curb accusations of ageism after Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Phillips was removed in 2009. That may have backfired. Yesterday, a fresh row was brewing over reports that Ms Armstrong's contract as a presenter on the BBC News channel – as was that of Julia Somerville, 63 – was only for 30 days work. She has worked as a presenter on ITN's News at Ten, GMTV and BBC World as well as frequently hosting ITV Border's Lookaround.

5 Viv Lumsden

Ms Lumsden is best known for her on-screen partnership with Shereen Nanjiani on STV's Scotland Today for most of the 1990s but also hosted her own chat show, Viv on Sunday and presented the long-running The Home Show. She has been a broadcaster for over 20 years and has worked for Reporting Scotland, BBC Scotland and directed Saga Radio in Glasgow. Born in Edinburgh in 1952, Ms Lumsden, 58, recently found a new line as a celebrity restaurant critic for Scottish Field magazine.

6 Isla St Clair

Born in Grangemouth in 1952, Ms St Clair rose to TV fame in 1978 as an icon of the 1970s, as assistant to game show host Larry Grayson on the The Generation Game. Now, at 58, could she host a show on retro fashion? A natural television presence, she went on to co-present The Travel Show on BBC2. In the 1980s Ms St Clair graduated to the weekend children's show, The Saturday Show on ITV. After two series she disappeared from the public eye to raise a family and later devoted herself to folk music, producing several albums and hosting a BBC Radio 2 show.

7 Anne Lorne Gillies

When she won a gold medal for her singing talent in the Mod at the age of 17, it was clear Ms Gillies's voice would help her go far. In the 1970s she earned a regular Saturday slot on the BBC, launching a musical career spanning more than 30 years. She took the middle name Lorne after the Lorne, Argyll and Bute area where she was raised, as the actors union Equity already had an Anne Gillies at the time. A fluent Gaelic speaker, Ms Gillies, 66, has backed the movement to regenerate the ancient language. In 2006 she produced Songs of Gaelic Scotland, a 550-page anthology of 175 Gaelic songs.

8 Moira Anderson

Born in 1938, Ms Anderson, 73, "still enjoys singing and entertaining whenever she is invited to do so", according to her official website. There was no word yesterday on whether she would be a long shot for the shock revival, with her last starring performance at Sir Norman Wisdom's funeral on the Isle of Man, where she lives, performing Who Can I Turn To and Absent in October. Her 1960s TV programme, Moira Anderson Sings, regularly won places at the top of the TV charts, and her later career included cruise tours with Cunard and P&O.

A graduate of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow, her first job in the media was presenting the radio programme Can't Help Singing. Typical TV appearances included variety series The White Heather Club hosted by Andy Stewart, and and Morecambe and Wise. In the 1970s she hosted Stars on Sunday.

9 Shereen Nanjiani

Ms Nanjiani, 50, became a Radio Scotland presenter after taking redundancy from her television job at STV. While there were calls for a television comeback yesterday, she kept a tactful silence – in common with many other current BBC employees on the heels of the Miriam O'Reilly case. Having been a trainee journalist with STV for five years, Ms Nanjiani was promoted to host Scotland Today when Sheena McDonald was ill. She went on to become chief news anchor at STV Central. She was the first Asian-Scottish presenter in Scotland and became the longest-serving female news presenter at STV until she left in 2006. Ms Nanjiani kicked off her radio career at the helm of the lunchtime programme Scotland Live which she presented every for BBC Radio Scotland. She now presents Shereen, a topical news and current affairs programme, every Sunday. She was born in 1961 in Renfrewshire. Her Pakistani father was an eye surgeon and her English mother a teacher.

10 Anne MacKenzie

When Anne MacKenzie lost her place at Newsnight Scotland in 2007 both she and the BBC dismissed the idea that ageism was at work, telling The Scotsman her freelance status made her "an obvious cut" amid cost-savings. Ms MacKenzie, 51, started her career aged 20 as a trainee journalist with Grampian TV and hosted North Tonight for 14 years. She joined BBC Scotland in 1995 and went on to anchor BBC network programmes, hosting Westminster Live and standing in for David Frost on the Breakfast with Frost programme.

11 Jane Franchi

Ms Franchi, 60, who was once described as the "queen bee of BBC Scotland", wanted to be a reporter from childhood. Something of a role model for fledgling women broadcasters, Ms Franchi acknowledges her own debt to Angela Rippon as a pioneer – though not perhaps for the latter's recent crash-out in reality show Dancing On Ice. Franchi started out as a woman's columnist on the Aberdeen Press & Journal but found her dream job as a presenter on the BBC's Reporting Scotland for over two decades, from 1979 to 2003. In 1992 she enjoyed a six-month stint presenting Radio Scotland's flagship show, Good Morning Scotland. She also presented Scotsport and from 1983 she presented Superscot, the quiz programme which ran for seven years. In 1998 she became a presenter on the Radio 4 show Four Corners.

 
 
 

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