Director-general admits BBC has too few older women on TV

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The BBC is right to be criticised for not featuring enough older women in leading roles in its television programmes, the broadcaster's director-general has admitted.

Mark Thompson said there is "an underlying problem, that – whatever the individual success stories – there are manifestly too few older women broadcasting on the BBC, especially in iconic roles and on iconic topical programme". He added that the corporation should view 54-year-old former Countryfile presenter Miriam O'Reilly's victory in an employment tribunal, which found she had been forced out because of age discrimination case, as a "turning point".

Despite highlighting a number of prominent female journalists and actresses in BBC shows, Mr Thompson conceded that "older women are chiefly notable for their absence". However, he argued in a column for the Daily Mail that he did not "believe for a moment that the BBC is riven by sexism or ageism", and that the problem stems largely from "a simple fact of life that many aspects of British national life are dominated by men".