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Older women 'disappear from TV'

Published on 16 May 2013 10:30 AM

Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman has hit out at the current 'combination of ageism and sexism' that affects women on television.

Figures gathered from the 6 main UK broadcasters suggest women disappear from TV screens as they get older, unlike their male counterparts.


While 53.1% of over-50s in the UK are women, as many as 82% of TV presenters in the same age bracket are men.

Ms Harman, who carried out the work on behalf of the Older Women's Commission, said that once women on television turn 50, their days on-screen are 'numbered'.

She says that for men, 'grey hair denotes wisdom, experience, authority', but there is a sense that viewers 'need to be protected' from older women.

While TV presenters are broadly reflective of age in the general population - 30% of TV presenters are over 50 compared with 34% of the UK population - they are unrepresentative in terms of gender.

Overall, only 7% of the total TV workforce - on- and off-screen - are women over the age of 50.

Challenging the broadcasters to take action

In an attempt to address the situation, the shadow secretary of state for culture, media and sport is to hold a roundtable with broadcasters in the House of Commons.

She will challenge representatives from the BBC, ITN, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky News to take action.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Ms Harman blasted the assumption that women have to be pushed out of the door if they are not looking young.

'I don't think women in the country think that just when they are past 50 they have to be airbrushed off our screens,' she said.

'There has been a very big change in the generation of older women that there are now. They are in much better health than their mothers, they are more likely to have taken their work much more seriously, have higher educational qualifications.'

She added that just because they are older it doesn't mean they should be pushed out the door, claiming older women still have a major role to play in the world of broadcasting.

Copyright Press Association 2013

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Last updated: Dec 05 2018

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