“Old” women removed from our screens?
Women aged 50 and over are not very numerous on the small screen.
Last summer, 58-year-old CTV news anchor Lisa LaFlamme was fired from Bell Media. More recently, it was Marie-Claude Barrette, 54, who learned after 14 years on the air that her morning show broadcast on TVA would end. Are these simply serendipitous coincidences, or are our TV producers (and their audiences) genuinely ageist?
That is precisely the question Guy A. Lepage asked Marie-Claude Barrette during her appearance on the show Everyone talks about it on Sunday, February 26. “In fact, it's TV, but it's above all also advertising,” replied the host.
An observation shared by Marie-Philippe Bouchard, CEO of TV5. Although she doesn't feel pressured to put younger women on screen since her channel isn't dependent on advertisers, she notices in the television world that efforts to rejuvenate the audience are more often passed on to female presenters and animators.
“In North America, it is undeniable that there is a kind of race towards younger audiences: 25 to 54 years old, she notes. Let's say that when a medium is very dependent on advertising revenue [like those who benefit from less public funding], that can induce decisions that affect content and unfortunately, for historical reasons [Editor's note: related to gender stereotypes], it seems that the decision makers believe that women age faster than men.”
Télé-Québec CEO Marie Collin agrees: Men don't seem to be treated the same way once they reach their fifties.
“I'm thinking of a joke of the Bye Bye which had a grain of truth: Pierre Bruneau [aged 70] left at a venerable age and was celebrated, while Madame LaFlamme of CTV had gray hair and was kicked out,” she says.
Throughout her career, Ms. Collin says she often suspected cases of ageism when mature newsletter readers or hosts were fired.
Aging on screen for a woman is demanding and it's worse since we arrived with high definition, adds- she. All the actresses have said so.
Marie Collin, CEO of Télé-Québec
It is more often women who have seen their programs undergo a “rejuvenation”, also notes Marie-Philippe Bouchard. And this, “even if they had succeeded in establishing themselves as figures of proximity with the public, as was the case for Janette Bertrand, who is nevertheless still fascinating on the screen, she says. We can only deplore it…»
Also questioned on the subject, Suzane Landry, vice-president of content, programming and information, television, radio and digital at Bell Media, replied that the group “tries to have a good representation of society, and diversity” both among its teams and in the programs it broadcasts.
“If we look at our dramas or our variety shows, we can clearly see that there are different generations at the screen, men and women, who are there to serve history, replies Suzane Landry. For us, this openness is important. In series like Sortez-moi de moi or Virage – Double fault [with Sylvie Léonard], there is a good representation of generations. In variety, we also work so that diversity is of any order: age, sex or culture.”
However, Bell Media did fire presenter Lisa LaFlamme last summer and will soon remove from its schedule the show of Julie Snyder, one of the few women over 50 at the helm of a mainstream program within the group. This last decision would have been taken by Ms. Snyder, but we still do not know the identity of her or her replacement (… as well as her age).
In collaboration with Caroline Bertrand and Jules Couturier.