Prue Leith and Paul Hollywood have defended The Great British Bake Off 2019 for casting the show’s youngest ever contestant line-up.
On Tuesday, Channel 4 revealed the latest batch of thirteen faces stepping in to the baking contest’s famous tent.
Fans quickly noticed a lack of age diversity among the group, which is the youngest in Bake Off history.
Its average age is just 31, and the eldest contender, 56-year-old Phil Thorne, is the only one above 40.
This is despite the show’s reputation as one that appeals to all generations, with several older alumni, such as Val Stones and Karen Wright, regarded as viewer favourites.
Social media users have accused C4 bosses of pandering to a millennial audience.
“Pretty much all the contestants are young and hot and I’m outraged. It’s not Love Island,” wrote one Twitter member.
“No oldies on Bake Off this year? Where is a nan figure to look up to?” wondered another.
“The whole charm of the show is seeing different people on there,” added another.
However, the Bake Off judges have rubbished ageism accusations, claiming the format remains “very inclusive”.
Prue Leith insists producers always choose the most capable candidates from the thousands of auditionees before considering other factors.
“When they’re choosing the bakers, the main thing they want to know is that they’re getting the best bakers in the country,” she said.
“They’re not set up to find somebody who’s the right ethnic mix, or the right height, or the right age or anything.”
“It’s only when they really know that everybody who’s left in the competition is a fantastic baker that they make sure, Channel 4 make sure, they’ve got the right balance.”
Meanwhile, Paul Hollywood claims growing numbers of younger people are eager to take part, having grown up watching the show.
“There’s a lot of youth picking up baking, there has been for years,” he argued.
This is a sentiment echoed by Bake Off makers Love Productions, who have issued a statement responding to the controversy.
“We always look for Britain’s best amateur bakers,” the company added.
“That more young people are applying possibly reflects a generation who have grown up watching Bake Off over the last 10 years.”
C4 has boasted of Bake Off’s success among younger viewers. It was the biggest TV programme of 2017 in the key 16-34 demographic, and increased its share further last year.
The Great British Bake Off returns for its milestone tenth series on Tuesday at 8.00pm on Channel 4.