Many older people, particularly older women, feel they are negatively portrayed on TV
Ofcom chief Sharon White said older people were being let down with programme-makers focussing too much on ‘middle-aged, middle-class’ audiences.
Ms White said there should be ‘tougher, stronger’ regulation to make sure the Beeb and other broadcasters reflect the diversity of the UK, and did not rule out imposing quotas to achieve that goal.
Ofcom’s own research showed the public often consider programmes' portrayal of older generations, women and ethnic minorities are 'neutral at best' and sometimes negative.
And Ms White said addressing the issue would be a priority when Ofcom’s new role as regulator alongside the new BBC Board begins next month.
The BBC said it had set out plans to improve diversity
Too many older people, particularly women, feel they are negatively portrayed on TV
Ofcom boss Sharon White
Speaking at the Oxford Media Convention, she said: "The BBC can and should become more relevant to certain parts of its audience.
"Too many older people, particularly women, feel they are negatively portrayed on TV, one in five viewers in Scotland and one in four in Northern Ireland feel the same way.
"This is a challenge for the whole industry, as broadcasters play a vital role in reflecting the values of our culture, and at the same time the BBC has a key responsibility to lead – it should strive to serve the needs of all corners of the UK's nations and their diversity.
"The BBC can also do more, I feel, to broaden its talent pool, helping to ensure that brilliant individuals, whatever their socioeconomic background, are able to forge a successful career in TV and radio."
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A pensioner watching television
She continued: "People see the BBC as integral to society through its historic status, but for younger groups it is seen as having a lack of edge, risk-taking and programmes relevant to them.
"Many said it is too focussed on middle-aged, middle-class, white audiences and could do more for the wider public."
Ofcom's other priorities will include making sure the BBC does not "stifle" commercial competition from other channels, as well as encouraging it to invest more in UK-produced content and targeting young consumers who are "more attuned to smartphones and tablets" rather than traditional radio and television sets.
But while Ms White made clear that the regulator would watch over the charter's requirement to produce 'discernibly distinctive' content and intervene when public values are not met, she emphasised that Ofcom's role was not to influence specific programming or scheduling.
Ofcom said the Beeb was too focussed on middle-aged audiences Behind the scenes of BBC Breakfast Thu, December 29, 2016
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Instead it will focus on ensuring that people working within the BBC are treated fairly, that complaints against it are made open to the public and that it upholds its 'trusted and impartial' reputation.
She said: ”This has never mattered more, especially in the news, during this time of political upheaval in the west, where people are trying to work out what's going on amid a sea of voices and fake news.
"Strong regulation begets trust. The BBC has special status but it will not get special treatment."
A BBC spokesman said: "As Sharon White said, there are challenges facing the whole industry and while the BBC has already made significant progress in reflecting the full diversity of today's UK on and off air, we've set out plans to do even more."