Women in the media: Broadcasters act following House of Lords report
Tomorrow, peers including the former Head of Public Affairs at the BBC will debate the report, published by the Communications Committee in January, on the number of women working in news and current affairs broadcasting.
The Committee's investigation came to the conclusion that broadcasters must do more to encourage and enable more women to work in news and current affairs broadcasting, and that the BBC in particular has a responsibility to reflect its audience.
The report also called for action to ensure a better gender balance in broadcasters' wider workforce; greater transparency around broadcasters' recruitment and progression processes; and for urgent steps to be taken by broadcasters to eradicate any opportunities for gender discrimination and bullying.
At the time of the report's publication, Lord Best, Chairman of the Committee, who will open the debate, said:
“Through this inquiry, it has become clear that there are simply not enough women in news and current affairs broadcasting. Although on the surface it appears that women are well represented, the facts tell a different story. We heard, for example, that men interviewed as experts outnumber women 4 to 1 on radio and TV.
“The fact that news has such a wide-reaching audience means that a special effort must be made by broadcasters – public service broadcasters in particular and especially the BBC because of its special status and its dominance as a provider of news and current affairs. We were also concerned about the evidence we heard suggesting that discrimination against women, particularly older women, still exists in the industry.”
Following publication of the report, and ahead of the debate, Lord Best said:
"The good news is that there have been some positive steps by broadcasters and by Ofcom, following publication of our report. The BBC has set out improved recruitment, training and employment practises and has appointed a new senior Development Director with a particular focus on women; Ofcom is working closely with the Creative Diversity Network (CDN) on their diversity monitoring initiative: Channel 4 has also announced since the publication of our report a target for a 50/50 gender split of C4 leaders by 2020.
"It is good to see these positive efforts by key players. But vigilance is clearly needed to keep up the pressure for continuing improvement: we hope government will now announce steps, both to require Ofcom to ensure publication of the necessary data that is essential for monitoring further progress by the BBC and to take action if targets are not being met."
Other members expected to take part in the debate include:
- Lord Dobbs, writer and broadcaster;
- Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick, former Head of Public Affairs at the BBC, then its first Head of Corporate Social Responsibility;
- Lord Gordon of Strathblane, former Political Editor at Scottish Television;
- Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, Shadow Spokesperson for Culture, Media and Sport; and
- Lord Sherbourne of Didsbury, member of the Communications Committee.
Baroness Williams of Trafford will respond on behalf of the Government.