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New BBC boss Mark Thompson: We get the message on anti-ageism
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Thumbs up New BBC boss Mark Thompson: We get the message on anti-ageism - 20-September-2009, 15:40

BBC boss Mark Thompson: We get the message on anti-ageism

Mark Thompson said he had taken on board the wave of criticism over the axing of older stars such as Arlene Phillips.

In an interview, the director general admitted that viewers wanted 'more than just youth on screen'.

The TV industry should not forget the value of highly experienced talent, he told WI Life, the Women's Institute magazine.
Axed: Arlene Phillips lost her job as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing
The latest series of Strictly Come Dancing kicked off last night without Miss Phillips, 66, who has been replaced as a judge by singer Alesha Dixon, 30.

More...Strictly Come Dancing signs up actress Lynda Bellingham, 61, and Jo Wood, 53, in bid to defuse ageism row
Arlene Phillips axed as Alesha Dixon and Darcey Bussell waltz onto Strictly Come Dancing

The decision sparked a flood of complaints with some fans of the popular BBC1 series threatening a boycott.
It was seen as an example of the way the corporation dumps female stars when they reach a certain age.

Mr Thompson refused to condemn the decision to axe Miss Phillips, pictured right, but appeared to offer an olive branch to her fans.

Asked why older women seemed to be 'almost invisible' on the BBC, he replied: 'Firstly let me reassure you - the BBC values the contribution of older women immensely.

'The decision to replace Arlene Phillips on Strictly Come Dancing wasn't motivated by ageism, and no other broadcaster can claim to serve and represent older women as well as the BBC.

'However, this debate demonstrates that viewers want much more than just youth on screen, and at the BBC we've taken the points made very much on board.

'More broadly, the whole industry needs to be reminded of the value of highly experienced presenters and performers.'

Mr Thompson said representing older women was a core mission
and pointed to presenters and performers such as Annie Nightingale on Radio 1,
Dame Judi Dench in Cranford and Vanessa Redgrave in Day of the Triffids.
He added that BBC4 had just run nearly 50 hours of programming on older people and the issues they faced.

The director general also said in the interview that the broadcaster was addressing concerns that loud background music on TV shows made it difficult for some viewers to follow dialogue.

He said BBC1 controller Jay Hunt was looking at the issue and that improved editorial guidance would make sure producers got the sound balance right.
No ageism: BBC Director General Mark Thompson says the media needs to embrace its more experienced workers
Mr Thompson also rejected accusations of political correctness in the appointment of a Muslim as head of religion.

'I wholeheartedly agree it would be quite wrong to appoint someone for reasons of political correctness,' he said.

'We appointed Aaqil Ahmed as head of religion and ethics precisely because he was the best person for the job based on his track record.'

The director general said Christians 'will remain the key audience' for the BBC's religious and ethics television.

He also responded to claims of 'sloppy standards' in grammar at the BBC by claiming the broadcaster did champion good English through shows including The Lost Art of Oratory and Britain's Best Young Speaker.

The Conservatives, meanwhile, have demanded that the BBC rethink its decision to schedule Strictly Come Dancing against ITV's The X Factor.

Strictly will start at 7.25pm tonight and run until 9.05pm, while The X Factor will air from 8pm until 9.15pm.

Jeremy Hunt, the party's culture spokesman, said the BBC's refusal to budge, despite complaints from fans of both shows, was indicative of a 'failure of leadership' at the corporation.

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