Anne Robinson claims older women must be 'clever, versatile, funny and thin' to stay on TV

The 70-year-old former Watchdog host has reignited the ageism debate

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The Independent Culture

TV presenter Anne Robinson has concluded that if older women want to keep their on-screen careers, they must be "clever, versatile, funny and thin".

The 70-year-old, best known for Watchdog and The Weakest Link, has re-sparked the ageism debate by suggesting that women are more likely to be axed on account of their age than their male colleagues.

Once among the highest-paid women on television, Robinson told Radio Times that she was not hired for her "beautiful breasts" but because she could "write and be funny".

"If Huw Edwards or Evan Davis had identical twin sisters they wouldn't be reading the news or presenting Newsnight," she said.

"I'm not saying they're both ugly. It's just a fact, particularly in light entertainment, that it's all about pretty girls in the front row. I've just never worked within those confines. "


Robinson also revealed her top tip for longevity in television, which is to be "clever, versatile, funny and thin".

"I'm working at it!" she joked, adding that being "clever at moving on" and not being "dragged out kicking and screaming" is another key trick.

Robinson made her TV debut on political show Question Time in 1982 before going on to host Points of View in 1988. Later, at Watchdog, she earned £4 million a year from the BBC but after budget cuts is now thought to be on £500,000.

Despite an offer from reality show I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! to appear for half a million, she turned it down. "People do it to keep themselves on screen," she said. "I've never bothered with any of that."

Ageism has been a controversial topic of late, with recent examples including Strictly Come Dancing's Arlene Phillips being booted off aged 66 and replaced by the much younger Alesha Dixon.

Angela Rippon has said she was told to "make way" for younger woman aged 50, while former Countryfile presenter Miriam O'Reilly successfully sued the BBC for age discrimination in 2009 after being dropped aged 51.