Fury as Paxman says middle-class white men have no chance in TV

A war of words between two of the nation's best-known news presenters has erupted after the BBC's chief interrogator, Jeremy Paxman, said it had become impossible for middle-class white men to make it in the television world.

The 58-year-old presenter, who is a Cambridge graduate, made his comments in a pre-recorded interview shown at the Edinburgh International Television Festival.

Responding to the suggestion that television had become a "man's world", Mr Paxman said: "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."

But yesterday, his counterpart at Channel 4 News, Krishnan Guru-Murthy, said the paranoia felt by men in the industry had caused Mr Paxman to lose perspective about the groups really struggling to make it on to our screens. "I feel awfully sorry for white, middle-class men who went to Oxbridge... but I'm not sure they are the ones at the greatest disadvantage," he said.

"Obviously, the people who really are facing the biggest struggle to make it into television are those from working-class backgrounds and people from ethnic minorities. If they are both working class and from an ethnic minority, they really are up against it."

Mr Paxman also argued that women were increasingly being selected for the industry's top jobs. The Newsnight presenter listed five female television executives, including the BBC1 controller, Jay Hunt, the head of Channel 4 news and current affairs, Dorothy Byrne, and the soon-to-be channel Five chief executive, Dawn Airey, as evidence for his view. "Do I think it's a man's world in television? That is the most ridiculous question I have been asked all week," he said.

His remarks brought strong criticism from the broadcaster Mariella Frostrup. "[Mr Paxman] 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. "It seems to me that TV is 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."

Katherine Rake, the director of the women's campaign group the Fawcett Society, spoke out from the audience after watching the screening of Mr Paxman's interview. "Unfortunately, he's very out of touch with reality," she said. "When you look at who's making the editorial decisions, we found only one out of 17 people was a woman. If you look at the last series of Have I Got News For You, out of 20 contestants they had four women. There is a failure to represent women in terms of news and political content."

It is not the first time one of the BBC's top news presenters has caused a stir with fears of a growing pro-female bias. In 2005, Michael Buerk caused controversy by saying men had become little more than "sperm donors" due to a dramatic shift in the power of the sexes. His former BBC colleague Anna Ford described his comments as "bonkers".

News
Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
people
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl despairs during the arena auditions
tvX Factor review: Drama as Cheryl and Simon spar over girl band

News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
news
News
i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Angel Di Maria celebrates his first goal for Manchester United against QPR
Football4-0 victory is team's first win under new manager Louis van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
art
News
newsIn short, yes
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
tv'Thomas comes right up to the abyss', says the actor
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris claimed the top spot in this week's single charts
music
Sport
BoxingVideo: The incident happened in the very same ring as Tyson-Holyfield II 17 years ago
News
Groundskeeper Willie has backed Scottish independence in a new video
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor poses the question of whether we are every truly alone in 'Listen'
tvReview: Possibly Steven Moffat's most terrifying episode to date
News
i100
Life and Style
Cara Delevigne at the TopShop Unique show during London Fashion Week
fashion
News
The life-sized tribute to Amy Winehouse was designed by Scott Eaton and was erected at the Stables Market in Camden
peopleBut quite what the singer would have made of her new statue...
Sport
England's Andy Sullivan poses with his trophy and an astronaut after winning a trip to space
sport
News
peopleThe actress has agreed to host the Met Gala Ball - but not until 2015
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Resourcer / Junior Recruiter

£15-20k (DOE) + Benefits / Bonus: Guru Careers: Joining as a Resourcer / Juni...

Head of Design & UX / UX Architect

£55 - 70k: Guru Careers: Head of Design & UX / UX Architect is needed to join ...

Media and Entertainment Lawyer - City

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - A specialist opportunity with ...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories