Page last updated at 11:08 GMT, Monday, 25 August 2008 12:08 UK

Paxman: TV is biased against men

Jeremy paxman
Newsnight presenter Paxman is no stranger to controversy

Middle class white men are discriminated against in the television industry, Jeremy Paxman has claimed.

In an interview played at Edinburgh TV festival, the BBC's Newsnight presenter said it was "the worst thing you can be" in the industry.

He said any such man wanting to work in TV should "give up all hope".

Broadcaster Mariella Frostrup dismissed his comments, citing a number of presenters who fitted the description - including Paxman and Jonathan Ross.

If any middle class white male I come across says he wants to enter television, I say 'give up all hope' - they've no chance
Jeremy Paxman

Paxman, 58, said: "Do I think it's a man's world in television? That is the most ridiculous question I have been asked all week.

"The worst thing you can be in this industry is a middle class white male.

"If any middle class white male I come across says he wants to enter television, I say 'give up all hope' - they've no chance."

The journalist then named five women TV executives including BBC One controller Jay Hunt, Channel 4 head of news Dorothy Byrne and Dawn Airey, who will soon become Channel Five's chief executive.

"Is this evidence of some male conspiracy keeping women down?" he said.

'Fantastic place'

But Frostrup told the festival: "He lists five women because he couldn't possibly name all the men in positions of power in TV because he would be there all bloody day."

She said women still faced prejudice, adding that she was once told by a TV producer there were so few women on a quiz show because "there just aren't any intelligent women out there".

He talks about middle class white men being a beleaguered species on television. Well, excuse me, but Jonathan Ross, Jeremy on Newsnight
Mariella Frostrup

"That's what you're up against - it's that sort of assumption," she said.

She added: "He talks about middle class white men being a beleaguered species on television. Well, excuse me, but Jonathan Ross, Jeremy on Newsnight.

"Look at the Today programme, Have I Got News For You, Newsnight."

She said that she thought the industry seemed to be "a fantastic place for middle class white males".

"They are very much judged to be the people imbued with a sort of gravitas that women are still struggling to achieve," she added.

'Sentimental doggerel'

Paxman is no stranger to controversy.

Earlier this month, he upset Scots by calling the work of Robert Burns "sentimental doggerel".

And at last year's Edinburgh TV Festival he criticised the licence fee as a tax on the ownership of television which he said was 50 years out of date.

He also claimed the discovery of deceptions across the industry - including phone-in quizzes which viewers were unable to win and scenes that had been edited to distort reality - had been handled in a "preposterous" way.


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