TV audiences call for more older women
Television audiences have expressed concern over the lack of older women on the screen, according to a new report.
Question Time, Mock the Week and QI were singled out for failing to have women on their programmes, or relying on “token women”.
The report was commissioned by the BBC on behalf of the Cultural Diversity Network (CDN).
The research was aimed at finding out what members of the public and experts in the broadcast industry feel about the portrayal and representation of age on television, radio and online.
Participants in the study felt that female news readers and entertainment presenters had been unfairly treated when they lost their jobs allegedly due to their age, replaced by those whom people felt were less qualified but younger, more attractive women.
Mark Thompson, director general of the BBC and chair of the CDN, said that “There are lessons here for the BBC and the rest of Britain’s broadcasters”.
“We should also note the concern, expressed by older people generally, about the need for greater visibility for older women,” Mr Thompson added.
The report comes a year after the former Countryfile presenter Miriam O’Reilly won her ageism case against the BBC when she was dropped from the show (see WVoN coverage).
Speaking about the report, O’Reilly called for television executives to put more older women on screen.
“There is an entrenched view in television that viewers only want to see young faces. It is an outdated notion. Viewers want to see all ages represented.”
O’Reilly added: “TV executives put women on TV that they want to see, and this is primarily pretty young women. It isn’t what the viewers want and they ignore viewers at their peril.”
A 70 year old viewer interviewed for the report, one of the 180 participants who took part, said:
“I get annoyed when I see all the women presenters all glamorous when it doesn’t seem to matter what the men look like”.
One of the complaints raised was the age disparity between male and female newsreaders, apparent when an older male presenter was paired up with a much younger woman, implying that looks are more important than talent or expertise for older female presenters.
At the other end of the age spectrum, nearly 40 per cent of young people were dissatisfied with the negative way they are portrayed on television. They were particularly concerned that “young women may be more likely to be objectified than young men”.
Participants also pointed out that certain reality shows “showed young men as only interested in sex”.
The representation of older black and minority ethnic people (BME) was another of the issues raised. Participants could only think of a few older men from a BME background, but no older BME women.