It’s time the BBC focussed on excellence, not equality

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Excuse me while I sigh deeply and attempt to retrieve my heart from the general vicinity of my boots to where it has just plummeted.

This sense of déjà-vu and deep despair has been brought about by reading the first interview given by the BBC’s new director-general, George Entwistle. In it he announced his intention to increase the number of female experts on television.

It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that part of the job description for every new boss of the BBC is to offer up a token gesture to political correctness within days of taking on the role.

When will these people understand that most licence-payers couldn’t care less whether their screens are filled with men or women, heterosexuals or homosexuals?

We couldn’t give a monkey’s about race or gender. And we don’t care a fig about the particular deity to which they may offer their obeisance.

All we are interested in is an ability to entertain, communicate or inform – and if they can manage all three, then so much the better.

When television bosses focus on equality rather than excellence, we end up with mediocre shows like Rip-Off Britain, which is merely a dumping ground for women of a certain age like Gloria Hunniford, Julia Somerville and Angela Rippon.

Every time it is shown, you sense some BBC functionary smugly ticking the employment box marked ‘presenters, female, elderly.’

These programmes are an insult to professionals like Clare Balding, Stephanie Flanders, Mary Beard and Laura Kuenssberg, who have succeeded on ability not gender and enhance every programme on which they appear.

There are women all over radio and television holding down important roles on merit, who would be mortified to think they were there for any other reason.

There are far more important matters with which the new DG should be occupying his time. Purge the layers of management, stop trying to compete with ITV to make the trashiest programmes, reassess the dismissive attitude towards sports coverage and invest in an improved drama output.