BBC Veteran Criticizes British TV for Lack of Older Female Hosts

David Dimbleby P

Citing "demeaning" prejudices, host David Dimbleby says the U.K. needs a "cultural shift" and argues the U.S. TV industry "keeps women at work."

LONDON –  Veteran BBC host and political commentator David Dimbleby has criticized the U.K. television industry for not giving older women enough opportunities to fill on-air roles, citing "demeaning" prejudices as a key reason.

The 74-year-old, who has anchored the BBC's coverage of every British general election since 1979, said that TV executives should re-examine what he called an ageist culture, which, he argued, causes a loss of talent that networks in the U.S. have better managed to avoid.

STORY: Just 18 Percent of U.K. TV Presenters Over 50 are Women (Report)

"Why should age matter with women?" Dimbleby told Radio Times magazine. "Women mature elegantly and better than men very often. I don't think age should be a factor for women appearing on television."

TV executives are often told that "attractive young women will bring in a bigger audience than less attractive, older women -- to say nothing of less attractive older men, like me," the magazine also quoted Dimbleby as saying. "That's the way the TV, not just the BBC, industry works. And I think it's wrong."

He said that the approach was "demeaning to women, and I also think it's a crazy loss of talent." He added: "If you look at American TV, you'll find it keeps women at work. It's just a cultural shift that's needed."

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A study published earlier this month found that just 18 percent of hosts older than 50 on major U.K. broadcasters are women. 

The publication of the study kicked off a broader industry and political debate. Harriet Harman, the deputy leader of Britain's Labour Party, accused the TV industry of ageism and sexism. "Broadcasters behave as though the viewing public have to be protected from the sight of an older woman, and that's just rude," she said. "There is nothing wrong with being an older woman."

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