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Media Watchdog: BBC Must Feature More Older Women, Minorities

The Ofcom chief says the BBC 'can do better' when it comes to showing diverse communities.

The head of the UK’s media watchdog group Ofcom says the BBC is “falling short” on its obligations to feature older women and minority communities in its programming. Sharon White said that while the BBC had “special status” in public life, it would not be getting special treatment from the regulatory group she heads.

White didn’t mince her words: “I would expect the BBC to be more distinctive, to have high-quality programming and to be investing in great drama, great news production and stories that really reflect the country with all its diverse makeup. All the research we have done broadly shows that people think the BBC is doing a good job, but it is falling short on those stories that reflect all of the nation and its communities.” Ofcom issued a report in June 2015 that did not suggest that the public broadcast system had a major problem with viewers about age, gender and minority portrayals but there were some exceptions: 15 percent of women 55 and older felt that they were portrayed “fairly negatively” and 2 percent “very negatively.” More than four in 10 viewers (44 percent) said they saw representation of people from black ethnic groups at least daily on television. And 40 percent claimed to see Asians on television at least daily. Minority viewers were less likely to think there was frequent portrayal of their own ethnic group.

A BBC spokesman was quoted in The Guardian as saying, “Ofcom are clear that the research they are referring to is for all public service broadcasters not just the BBC but, despite that, we’re always happy to debate what we do on screen and we don’t think any broadcaster does better than in representing older women than the BBC.”

It’s a problem obviously not unique to the UK. A/annenberg.usc.edu/pages/~/media/MDSCI/CARDReport%20FINAL%2022216.ashx"}}"> report from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism found that older women are scarce in movies and TV shows. Older men, on the other hand, aren’t at all hard to find on screen. As we reported earlier, this is probably not a coincidence since “as the report also makes clear, it’s older men who are running the show in Hollywood.”

The USC analysis examined 414 scripted movies, TV shows and digital series and found that  men made up nearly 80 percent of the characters over 40 portrayed in films.

What do you think? Are there enough shows about older women on TV?

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