UWE researchers help develop charter on women, ageing and the media

Issue date: 19 September 2013


Josephine Dolan and Estella Tinknell

Three academics from UWE Bristol have played an important role in the development of a charter on Ageing and Sexism in the Media to be launched on 3 October in London.

Estella Tinknell, Josephine Dolan and Sherryl Wilson are all members of the AHRC-funded Women, Ageing and Media (WAM) network. The charter is being launched by The New Dynamics of Ageing group in collaboration with WAM, Women in Journalism and the National Union of Journalists.

The charter aims to focus public attention on how older people, particularly older women, are portrayed in the media. It will bring researchers and policy makers together to discuss this major issue and find new ways of combating ageism and sexism in the media.

Earlier this summer, Estella and Josie presented written evidence to the Labour Commission on Older Women and the Media, chaired by Harriet Harman. They were then invited to take part in a roundtable discussion on older women in public life at the House of Commons together with Ros Jennings, director of the WAM network, who will be speaking at the launch of the charter.

Estella said, “We need to investigate where, when and how older women are represented across the full gamut of media from newspapers and magazines to broadcasting and cinema. We also need to make meaningful connections between representation in its democratic sense and representation in the media in order to achieve real world change.

“The connection between a reductive range of representations within the media and reduced opportunities for employment has been well established in relation to discriminatory practices based on class, race, gender or sexuality.

“As well as more obvious concerns with the practice of ageist and sexist discrimination against older women in the media industries, exemplified by the high profile cases of the removal of television presenters Miriam O'Reilly and Arlene Phillips, account must be taken of the ways in which older women are either stereotyped by, or marginalised and made invisible within the vast majority of media output, both fictional and factual.

“In our presentation, entitled 'Representing Older Women in the Media: The Key Issues' we point out that mainstream terrestrial television channels have a duty of public service written into their charters, but other media also have a responsibility to fairly represent the constituencies they serve and to do so effectively. Employing older women in greater numbers in key roles across the media industries is essential, and will help to transform the ways in which older women are represented.”

The charter is being developed as part of an interdisciplinary research council programme on the New Dynamics of Ageing, which aims to improve the quality of life of older people.

The Centre for Women, Ageing and Media is a research group set up by the Universities of Gloucestershire, West of England (UWE Bristol) and York. It works to explore a range of research themes focusing on older women and popular media forms including digital technologies, film, popular music and television.

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