Women still have a long way to go: Rip Off Britain and abortion at risk in Spain

Labour Party

The audience for Rip Off Britain regularly tops 5 million while Match of the Day gets 4.5 million. This does not surprise me. Football may be the national game and, given the domination of our national news by the Capello-Redknapp furore, you may be forgiven for forgetting that more people are interested in getting a fair deal than 22 men kicking a ball around.

It is therefore grossly unjust that the three female presenters of  Rip Off Britain – Gloria Hunniford, Angela Rippon and Julia Somerville – only receive £1,000 each per episode, amounting to £20,000 a year, compared to Match of the Day presenters Alan Hansen, Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer who are paid astronomical amounts for their efforts on the programme. According to yesterday’s Sunday Times Hansen currently gets £1.5 million a year (to be cut to £1 million next season), Lineker, the show’s anchor-man receives about £2 million a year and poor old Alan Shearer a mere £400,000 a year or £10,000 per show. The lowest paid of this particular football trio receives ten times more than each of the three Rip Off Britain presenters.

Methinks I smell an insidious rat which is all to do with age and gender. Hunniford, Rippon and Somerville are all women of a certain age – 71, 67 and 64 respectively. The three of them feel strongly that they receive so very much less than equivalent male presenters simply because they are women who are no longer in the first flush of youth. Their pitiful remuneration is obviously not based on viewing figures as their programme consistently beats Match of the Day.

The Rip Off Britain case is another example in the saga of the way the BBC treats its older women presenters, Countryfile presenter Miriam O’Reilly has already won an age discrimination case against the Corporation. Perhaps the outspoken anger of Hunniford, Rippon and Somerville will ensure than when the show returns next season not only these three excellent presenters but all other women at the BBC will get a fair deal.

Meanwhile, there is very bad news for women in Spain. The country’s new conservative rulers want to overturn the changes the previous socialist government made to the law relating to abortion. Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz Gallardon, one of the rising stars of the ruling party, has announced that he hopes to bring back a law from 1985 that allowed abortions only if the women’s mental or physical health was in danger or if she had been raped. The current law allows abortions on the national health service without the patient having to provide any justification if she is no more than 14 weeks pregnant. Moreover, 16-year olds can have abortions without their parents’ permission.

Abortion campaigners in Spain are appalled, stating that going back to the old restrictive law will lead to an increase in back-street abortions and a consequent rise in termination-related deaths. Dr Santiago Barambio who risked imprisonment for carrying out abortions under Franco told the Sunday Times, “They [the conservative government] want to take us back to the Franco days. They’re going to put moral concepts into laws so that we can all go to heaven.”    

Women across Europe obviously still face discrimination and have to overcome obstacles throughout their lives. These two examples at either end of the spectrum – older women television presenters receiving far less money than their male counterparts and abortion rights being threatened in Spain –  aptly demonstrate just how far we have yet to go.