- Thursday, 02 February 2012
A report has found BBC shows exploit older women as "figures of fun" and "the butt of jokes", putting them as simply "token" members of panel shows.
The elderly are also stereotyped as moaners, a survey of viewers for the broadcaster has discovered.
Programmes such as Strictly Come Dancing include contestants such as Ann Widdecombe "for a laugh", while Question Time, Mock the Week and QI use "token" women.
And dramas, comedies and light entertainment featured older women as "props for their stories", instead of being central characters.
The findings were made in an independent survey of 180 viewers of all ages commissioned by the BBC and the Cultural Diversity Network.
Viewers who took part in the Serving All Ages report felt that the over 50s were stereotyped as "moaners" who refused to move with the times.
They also believed that there were not enough middle-aged and elderly women on programmes, compared with their male counterparts.
Older women who did appear on television were "exploited" and the subject of jokes.
The report stated: "Whilst Strictly Come Dancing was commended as a programme that included contestants from a range of ages it was also felt to sometimes mock and at worst be exploitative of certain older contestants"
One 72-year-old viewer added: "We didn’t like older people making a fool of themselves on telly, producers and directors are taking advantage and are using it for entertainment.
"An example of this would be Strictly Come Dancing. It's just embarrassing. I don’t like seeing older folk being exploited."
Broadcaster were also criticised for cutting female newsreaders and entertainment presenters.
The report said viewers felt those who allegedly lost their jobs due to age were treated unfairly: "particularly when they had been replaced with what people felt were less qualified but younger, more attractive women".
Older women were treated differently to men, such as Sir Bruce Forsyth, Sir David Attenborough and a "hose of newsreaders" who were at an "advantage" because of their age.
One viewer said: "Getting rid of all these older newsreaders, and bringing in young, glamorous kind of females.
"You're kind of forgetting the older person which they shouldn't because it's nice to grow up to older faces, and more mature faces, rather than just having women in their young 20s that haven't really got the experience."
However, the elderly were positively portrayed as "bright and intelligent" in programmes such as the Antiques Roadshow or quiz shows such as Eggheads.
Some characters in soaps and dramas were also viewed as positive, including the Dowager Countess from Downton Abbey, Patrick Trueman in Eastenders and Betty Turpin in Coronation Street.
Younger viewers said these characters "stand up for themselves".
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