You are currently browsing the daily archive for April 8, 2014.

Description de l'image  Bouvard.jpg.Last week on April 4, 2014, French journalist, editor, author and broadcaster Philippe Bouvard (left), 84, celebrated his 37th year presenting RTL radio’s Les Grosses Têtes (The Big Heads), France’s most popular afternoon programme on what we in Britain call ‘the wireless’.

I watched a podcast of his anniversary show and was moved when RTL’s much younger station director walked into the studio with a huge Opéra cake (seven slim chocolate-based layers, each one of which is unctuous), glasses of fizz for Bouvard and his panellists as well as a bottle of something special for Bouvard himself. Bouvard promised to share the cake with his sizable live studio audience.

Bouvard is a French institution and has even played cameo roles as himself in three films between the 1950s and the 1970s. I first became aware of him when he was editor-in-chief of France-Soir, now sadly defunct. That wasn’t his fault, by the way. It went downhill when he left, although it was still a good read for a tabloid. The racing and puzzle pages were excellent, too.

Over the past few years, I have listened to Les Grosses Têtes off and on during the afternoon. That is my busiest time of day, so I tune in and tune out. Bouvard will be leaving the programme at the end of the summer to return to RTL in the autumn with a new show, yet to be determined.

Bouvard’s programme is much like him: varied, stimulating and never boring. I cannot imagine how he manages to do it nearly every day, week in and week out. Each show is different and demands quite a lot to maintain its audience share, even if Bouvard himself probably does not do all the research or book the guests. Listeners learn something new every day, whether it is about showbiz, politics, history, literature, science, classical education or philosophy. It is recorded in the morning and broadcast in the afternoon, interspersed with news bulletins and a bit of music.

Incidentally, Bouvard was born to a Catholic father whom he never knew and to a Jewish mother. Born in 1929, he was obliged to lie low during the Second World War as an ethnic Jew. When his mother remarried, he took his stepfather’s surname. He has a French Legion of Honour medal, is a Knight of French Arts and Letters and is a member of the Grand Croix de l’Ordre d’Isabelle la Catholique. He has been married for 61 years and has two children.

It occurred to me how pleasant it was for RTL’s much younger director to present him with an anniversary celebration and a short but genuine speech of thanks.

MurrayWalkerAutosportInternational2009.jpgHere in the UK, Bouvard would have been turfed out by the time he reached his 80th birthday, just on principle. The closest British icon we have of roughly the same age group is Murray Walker OBE, who, for many years, was the most remembered commentator for Formula 1 racing on the BBC and ITV.

Walker, now 90, made the decision to leave F1 commentary in 2000. His final race was the American Grand Prix in 2001. Since then, he has featured in retrospectives not only on motor racing but about his own life.

He started his career as an ad man after serving in the Second World War. Odd though it might seem today, advertising was the natural civvie street career choice for British officers in that war.

One Briton who did not fare so well with media management was the veteran BBC Radio 2 announcer Jimmy Young OBE, who left the station in a storm of controversy and public outcry in 2002 at the age of 81. Listeners past and present were outraged at his treatment by the BBC. They deemed Auntie Beeb ageist. Young had made it publicly clear he had had no intentions of retiring; his hand had been forced. Just under a decade later, in 2011, Radio 2 did a retrospective of his life with his participation at age 90. Today, he is still going strong, writing a weekly column for the Sunday Express. Among other subjects, Young has taken issue with the aggressive tone of today’s television interviewers.

Sadly, Britain’s female broadcasters and presenters have fared the worst where ageism is concerned. Two capable — and beautiful women — Moira Stewart OBE (left) and Anna Ford (right) — were turfed out of news presenting well before their time. Stewart was given the heave-ho at the tender age of 57 in 2007 after 34 years in both television and radio with the BBC. Ford stayed on as BBC One’s afternoon news presenter until she was 62. That was in 2006. By then, she had had nearly 20 years continuous broadcasting experience between ITV and the BBC.

In Stewart’s case, young(ish) DJ Chris Evans vowed he would bring her back to broadcasting. She is currently his newsreader for his drive-time Breakfast Show on Radio 2.

Ford has moved on to serve as a non-executive director of J Sainsbury plc and chairs their Corporate Responsibility Committee.

Mary Berry BBC Good Food 2011.jpgA better outcome for British women in media, perhaps, is the career trajectory of Mary Berry CBE, who overcame polio as a young girl and went on to study at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, write food columns for magazines, author cookbooks, star as a Women’s Institutes (WI) television cook on various programmes to go on to co-present the Great British Bake-off  (BBC2) with Paul Hollywood.

You can’t get much better than that in your sunset years, can you?

Her Mary Berry Cooks (BBC2) has just finished and is a well-presented six-part series on traditional and modern English dishes which are sure to please friends and family. Berry takes the fear out of cooking for the kitchen novice. Her manner is friendly, open and helpful.

I quite like the way Berry is a non-feminist feminist, much like our Queen. Neither talks about feminism. Each has had a longstanding career. (At this point, Berry would quite rightly decry my comparing her to our monarch, which I would accept.) Both are feminine and gracious. Both cherish their husbands and families. Both are well respected women in their fields. Neither went in for ‘feminism’ per se with all its strident events and elements. Both are kind to others, even when things go awry. Both their mothers lived to a great age. The Queen Mother died at the age of 102. Berry’s mother lived to be 105 or 107, I cannot recall exactly.

Some of our elders in the mainstream media meet with more fortune than others. Why that is remains a mystery. However, I do enjoy watching, listening to and reading about them. They all have much to teach us.

Would that there were more seniors in mainstream media now. May we find a more generous younger generation when we meet that age. Our Boomers and Gen-X-ers are perhaps not the best respecters of age.

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