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Author: News Letter - www.newsletter.co.uk
Published on 27 May 2011 01:30 AM

Pensioners' rights activists braved heavy showers and strong winds to picket the filming of current affairs programme Question Time.

The National Pensioners Convention (NPC) is protesting against what it has described as "ageism' by the BBC in not allowing a pensioners' rights campaigner to appear on the panel to address their concerns.

A group of around 10 people from the Devon branch of the NPC, waving placards accusing the BBC of being the 'British Broadcasting Censor', handed out leaflets to audience members outside the University of Exeter's Northcott Theatre.

Dave Smith, 65, the branch chairman and a former airline pilot living in Teignmouth, accused the BBC of a "condescending" attitude towards older people.

"We feel that pensioners are particularly affected in many ways by this Government's policies," he said. "Just today in the news we have seen stories about the NHS treating pensioners very badly.

"There are 12 million pensioners in the UK and we feel we deserve an equal voice as everyone else. After all, they went and listened to prisoners (in Wormwood Scrubs prison) last week. We feel they should listen to us as well."

The NPC said the protest was the first of many planned, which will take place as the panel show, broadcast from a different town and city each week, moves around the UK.

A BBC spokeswoman said it was "untrue" to say that no pensioners' representative had appeared on Question Time. "As an adviser to the Government on the elderly, Dame Joan Bakewell joined the panel in 2009," she said.

"Both the panel and audience are chosen to reflect all ages and backgrounds, including pensioners. Many of our panellists are over or close to the age of retirement, including 20 in the current series, as are members of the invited audience.

"Political parties are the only organisations that have guaranteed representation on the panel. The selection of guests outside the political parties is usually based on topicality or direct involvement with an appropriate issue."

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