Gender Equality Ombudsperson reacted on gender and age discrimination on Croatian Radiotelevison

Gender Equality Ombudsperson Višnja Ljubičić reacted after editor and TV host Ljiljana Saucha was told she will no longer be hosting the “Culture News”, a TV show on Croatian Radiotelevison (HRT), and will be replaced by a younger female colleague.

In the reaction Gender Equality Ombudsperson states:

In a short period of time, the attention and critical reaction of the public were given to two cases in which presenters at the Croatian Radiotelevision were informed that they would no longer work in front of television cameras as presenters. In both cases, the reason was their age.

Specifically, in the case of the 57-year-old host of the mosaic show “Good Morning, Croatia” HRT as an employer notes that the decision of the “administration to follow the example of European public television in monitoring the average age of 37”, and in the latest case of 63-year-old host of “Culture News” HRT states as a reason that they “want young people on the screen”. In its statement on the latter case, HRT says that this is the usual change of presenter as it exists on all other televisions.

The right of the television editorial board is to freely choose the persons who will be entrusted with the work tasks within the programme, including those who will be in front of the camera, of course taking care that no one is discriminated against. If all the people in front of the camera were 20 or 30 years old, we could talk about putting the elderly at a disadvantage, ie discrimination based on age, which is prohibited by the Anti-Discrimination Act. This is not the case on HRT because various shows are hosted by people of different ages.

However, these two cases, which received media attention, and for which the Ombudsperson received complaints from citizens, show that this is actually primarily discrimination based on gender and age.

Namely, according to the above statements of the employer, two women were removed from the leading positions in front of the cameras due to age, but since the same did not happen to any older male presenter, this reason obviously applies only to older women.

What everyone, for example, can notice by watching the hosts of the show “Good Morning, Croatia” is that all male hosts are of older age (58, 52 and 46 years), including those who have been leading the show for decades, while the female hosts change more often, and are currently getting younger (31, 32 and 35 years old). If only older female hosts are replaced by younger ones, then in specific cases we can talk about multiple discrimination – by gender and age.

In these two cases HRT didn’t say that they are replaced because they did not meet the standards or requirements of the work they performed, but solely because they were “too old”. It is obvious that older women on HRT do not have the same status as older men, which is discrimination based on gender.

It would be very difficult to explain that younger and inexperienced colleagues are more professional or experienced in their work than their older colleagues, so they came to replace them, and it remains to be concluded that, regardless of the fact that young hosts may be or are able to perform the required tasks, that they came primarily because of their youthful appearance, which is in line with established gender stereotypes according to which a woman’s appearance is the primary measure of evaluation.

Therefore, HRT’s statement that “all colleagues are equally valuable” is not valid because it is obvious that they make a distinction based on gender, putting older presenters at a disadvantage compared to their male colleagues, which is prohibited by gender equality under the Gender Equality Act.

If it is the common practice of all televisions to follow the “average age of 37” then the same should apply to both women and men, which is not the case here.

Following the above and with a more detailed explanation, the Gender Equality Ombudsperson sent a warning and a recommendation to HRT.

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