Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ageism is the media's open secret

I hope all the newspapers lining up to point the finger now that the BBC has been caught putting older presenters out to grass have first made sure that the age profile of their own workforce matches the national average. That's without counting in security staff and support services in order to make your company look more like an extended family and less like a university.

Obviously as you get older the workforce seems younger. But it could be that it's more than a feeling. In my working life I've watched the average age of the media workforce get steadily younger. It certainly appears to be the case in big companies where employees over the age of 50 have become scarcer and scarcer. Whatever the reasons - the lure of early retirement, high earners being squeezed out in the latest round of mergers and acquisitions, health, personal inclination, the requirements of child rearing, people having benefited from a property boom and retired, changes in technology - I know very few contemporaries who are working their way through to retirement age in the way they may have envisaged when they were thirty.

We hear a lot about NEETS, the hundreds of thousands of young people who are not in work, education or training. I feel there ought to be a similar acronym for the many fifty-plus people I know who are in a similar position.


  1. Perhaps the dreadful wages and job security in the media have something to do with it? How many people can afford to stay a staff writer when they have family and kids? And how many youngsters will work for next to nothing in the media, effectively driving out those who need to earn a living wage?

  2. This is something that I've never clearly understood.

    The structure of most companies is pyramidal. There is a large number of 'footsoldiers' who are by and large the younger employees and a very small number of managers, presidents CEOs and whatnot.

    So what happens to the older footsoldiers? In my last job (at, as we are encouraged to coyly say, a 'major national newspaper') I was about the same age as the Editor and substantially older than my immediate superior and most of my equals.

    So where is everybody else of my generation working?

    There is a large number of people in their late 40s and up who seem to be unaccounted for by promotion and or early death.