Written by Ellis Ian Fields
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Thursday, 13 January 2011

image for BBC Response To Ageism Charges Goes Awry
Natty Curtains won't be doing Match of the Day again.

Attempts by the BBC to prove it is not ageist or sexist when it chooses on-screen presenters is having some dubious results.

The broadcaster is urgently putting older faces on screen after it lost the industrial tribunal brought by Miriam O'Reilly who claimed she was sacked from her job on Country File because of her age.

Viewers had a taste of the policy yesterday when they saw Helen Coaltar presenting the early evening news again for the first time in more than 25 years. Helen, a former viewers' favourite, is 65 and was rushed in as news producers believed her experience would overcome any rustiness.

All seemed to be going well, until she began an item about Hollywood star George Clooney.

Ignoring her teleprompter she said: "Oh, George - yes. I like him. He was in that thing with what's-her-name. Oh, you know - yes you do. They were in Africa - or was it Scotland. No... it was definitely Africa and he was a pilot. Oh, who was that woman? Anyway, our Derek says they had a bit of a thing but Libby at the hairdresser's says that's nonsense..."

The programme cut to a filmed report from Berlin.

Then last night a Match Of The Day special was presented by Harry "Natty" Curtains, the 74-year-old former Aston Villa legend, in place of Gary Lineker.

After highlights of a top Premier League fixture, in stead of turning to discuss it with the panel he began a diatribe against modern footballers.

"Wouldn't have happened in my day," he said. "They were proper men then. Gentlemen too - Tom Finney, Jimmy Dickinson, Dixie Dean... marvellous.

"Money! Don't talk to me about money. This lot, they don't know they're born, bunch of la-de-da prima donnas the lot of them..."

Producers cut to film of another match, after which Alan Shearer talked to Mark Lawrenson and Alan Hansen.

A BBC insider told us: "Maybe these early efforts were a bit rushed. But you can expect to see more older faces because we're definitely not ageist. We love old folks."

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