Raworth to replace Ford as the first lady of BBC television news

As the first lady of BBC television news, Anna Ford has always battled against Private Eye's description of her as a "doe-eyed talented autocue reader".

Now, after nearly three decades as a newsreader, she will hand over to a younger colleague, Sophie Raworth, who has also lambasted the "dollybird autocue" image of female newsreaders.

In April, Raworth will become the face of BBC1's One O' Clock News. It is a coveted post - the lunchtime news is watched by an average of three million viewers and has 40 per cent of the television audience, a higher share than any other news bulletin.

Raworth has won the role after three years as co-presenter of the Six O' Clock News with George Alagiah and six years on the BBC Breakfast sofa with Jeremy Bowen. She has also co-presented major news events.

But it is still a significant coup for a presenter who has been dismissed by some as boring and cruelly described by one critic as having apparently suffered "a personality bypass".

It is rumoured that in her early career at BBC Manchester, Raworth was nicknamed "the Ice Maiden", but she has also shown that she has a flamboyant side. In his memoirs, The Insider, the former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan recalled an eight-hour boozy lunch with Raworth and Bowen at The Ivy and the blonde news anchor has also been parodied on the BBC sketch show Dead Ringers.

Raworth grew up in Surrey, with a florist mother and a businessman father, and attended the prestigious St Paul's school, where Petronella Wyatt was a contemporary. In contrast, Ford spent her early career as a student firebrand, becoming the first women president of the Manchester University Union.

It is not the first time Raworth has taken over from Ford on the lunchtime bulletin. When Ford lost her voice halfway through the One O'Clock News three years ago, Raworth stepped into the role with ease, although she had only just arrived for work and had not had time to change her clothes or read the script. Raworth joined the BBC's regional trainee scheme in 1992 thenbecame a radio reporter at BBC Manchester. Three years later she joined the regional television news programme, Look North, before moving to London in 1997.

Married to an estate agent, Richard Winter, she has recently returned from maternity leave with her second child.

"I am thrilled," said Raworth yesterday. "In news terms the One O'Clock sits in the middle of an incredibly busy part of the day, but I'm really looking forward to the challenge. Anna will be a hard act to follow, but it's a wonderful opportunity - a prestigious job and I still get to be home every afternoon for my children."

Ford, who announced in October 2005 that she was quitting as a newsreader after 27 years to pursue other interests, described the lunchtime bulletin as "the best slot in BBC News". She added: "I'm sure Sophie will find it stimulating and will build on the programme's success."

The veteran newsreader joined the BBC in 1976 . She anchored the Six O'Clock News from 1989 and has presented the One O'Clock News since it was relaunched in May 1999.

BBC head of television news Peter Horrocks said: "Sophie brings considerable experience to the team... her professionalism and warmth will stand her in good stead to follow Anna."

Women in the news hot seat

KIRSTY WARK

Wark joined the BBC in 1976 as a graduate researcher for BBC Radio Scotland. Since 1987 she has presented Scotland's general election coverage. In 1993 she joined BBC 2's Newsnight and, since 2001 has regularly presented Newsnight Review.

ANGELA RIPPON

The first prime-time female presenter of the Nine O' Clock News in the 1970s after joining the BBC in 1966. Best known for stepping out from behind a newsdesk to do a high-kicking dance routine on a Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show.

ANNA FORD

After working at Granada, Ford's BBC career began in 1976 for Man Alive and she joined the BBC 1 Six O'Clock News team in 1989. Ford, right, became presenter of BBC 1's One O'Clock News when it restarted in 1999.

SUE LAWLEY

Despite her professionalism as presenter of the Six O'Clock News and the BBC's early evening current affairs programme Nationwide, Lawley could not escape a sexist press. "Even her sexiness is almost deliberate," wrote the Daily Mail.

NAN WINTON

On 20 June 1960, Nan Winton became the first female newsreader when she read the news on BBC television. The Weekly Post ran an article headed: "Girls just can't read the news".

FIONA BRUCE

The former current affairs reporter began her career at the BBC as a researcher in 1989. She presented the Six O'Clock News for four years before moving on to the Ten. In 2001 she was also the first female presenter to be part of the BBC's election results team.

By Karl Mansfield and Ciar Byrne

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