Slap in face for young blondes as over-40 wins TV bias case

IF YOU have ever been infuriated by the formulaic TV news shows in the US, which pair a blandly handsome male of any age with a decidedly under- forties blonde, this verdict is for you. A court in Connecticut has awarded Janet Peckinpaugh, who is now very much the "wrong" side of 40 but still almost blond, more than $8m (pounds 5m) in compensation after she was dropped as a $200,000-plus-a-year news presenter.

The award, which is subject to appeal, is for lost earnings, hurt feelings and breach of contract. Within hours, the implications were reverberating through the glitzy world of American television, where one (female) executive defended the policy of pairing young women with mostly older men as mirroring "the man and woman in the audience".

Ms Peckinpaugh had sued the WFSB network, which is an affiliate of CBS, on multiple counts of sex and age discrimination. She claimed that she had elected to remain at the station in earlier years - turning down lucrative offers from national stations - because of assurances that she would be able to "grow grey" on the air. Unfortunately for Ms Peckinpaugh, this is not what happened. Her network turned out to be just like all of the others.

One day in 1994, she was called in to re-audition for her job, paired with a new male presenter. So were the two other female presenters. The tapes were shown to a "cross-section" of viewers, and Ms Peckinpaugh - the oldest of the three - came last. Her contract was not renewed, and she was reduced to an early-morning presenter's job at a much smaller station on 20 per cent of her previous pay.

One of Ms Peckinpaugh's complaints was that the station never even considered pairing two of the women presenters, so determined were they to keep the male-female pairing that pervades American TV. Almost the only time two female presenters are paired is on public holidays (when the men seem to get the day off) and on minor specialist stations, like the Weather Channel and Court TV. Even then, the male- female pairing is more usual.

Strictly speaking, the jury found WFSB liable for discrimination on the basis of sex, not age, but the two were so closely bound together that it hardly mattered. The few women who survive on screen past their forties become interviewers or executives. The coveted role of news presenter goes to the men.

If he needs extra authority, he is paired with a bubbly or modest young woman.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
News
Jihadi John
newsMonikers like 'Jihadi John' make the grim sound glamorous
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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 General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003