New TV survey contradicts ageist argument

From Arlene Phillips to Moira Stuart, the BBC has come under some serious fire recently over complaints of ageism against its female presenters. But a new survey by the Radio Times has revealed that the average age of women on TV has increased from 32 years in the 1950s to 40 in modern times.

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The study looked at 800 presenters appearing on BBC1 and ITV during prime time telly and, while the average female presenter is more mature, her male counterpart has got slightly younger, from 46 years and nine months to 46 years of age. However, the research revealed that only nine per cent of women on TV are over 50, as compared to 19 per cent of men. A spokesman for the Radio Times concluded that "we are making progress towards equality".

Despite this new revelation, the backlash from the axing of Arlene Phillips from Strictly and her much younger replacement, Alesha Dixon, continues to spark debate. Veteran presenter Selina Scott, who was awarded £250,000 by Channel Five after losing her newsreader role, is set to submit a report on the subject of ageism, which claims that Anne Robinson has turned herself into a "Cruella de Vil" cartoon character in order to avoid the chop. And the BBC is already facing an age discrimination case brought by Countryfile's Miriam O'Reilly.

Kirsty Wark, the 55-year-old Newsnight regular, told the Radio Times: "I think it is fair to say that the profile of men on television is an older one than that of women. No one is saying that we don't want young people, young talent, fresh ideas, but you also want people the audiences are in touch with, people who are going to ask the questions they want asked. It is a question of perspective."

Meanwhile Joanna Lumley put the subject in less diplomatic terms, saying: "If you don't look good, you're out. But only women. Men can look like dogs' bottoms."

But what do you think? Is the BBC guilty of ageism where women are concerned or are we moving towards equality as the Radio Times suggests?