The BBC is poised to name Zeinab Badawi and Fiona Armstrong as two of its new over-50 female news presenters, in a bid to widen its talent roster and thwart allegations of ageism.
The director general, Mark Thompson, had ordered staff to find at least one female presenter in her 50s, after criticism that older women were fearful of being ousted by younger colleagues. In 2006 veteran news reader Anna Ford quit the corporation, saying she feared being "shovelled off...into the graveyard shift". Joan Bakewell, the Government's adviser on ageism, has raised the matter with Mr Thompson and Helen Boaden, the corporation's head of news.
The magazine Broadcast said the corporation is lining up four new male and female BBC News channel presenters, one of whom will be in their 60s and the other three – including Ms Badawi and Ms Armstrong – in their 50s.
Ms Badawi, 50, is currently a presenter on BBC World. The Sudan-born newsreader co-presented Channel 4 News with Jon Snow for a decade until 1998. Ms Armstrong, 53, anchored ITV Border's regional news programme and has held a number of positions with the BBC. Insiders say the appointments, which are subject to financing, could be announced before Christmas.