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Radio 4: The great gender diversity audit

August 3, 2011

Over at the F Word blog Sharon Jacobs had the excellent idea of listening to a whole day of Radio 4’s output and conducting a diversity audit of all its programmes to see how the genders were represented.

The answer, unsurprisingly, was distinctly lopsidedly. A mere 28% of the contributors to Radio 4 output (including presenters, guests and journalists) were women, the rest – more than two thirds – were men, she found, while for presenters meanwhile the percentage was even worse – a whopping 78% of presenters on the day were men.

Jacobs points out that the first one can be partially (but by no means completely) explained by the fact that fewer women are appearing in the news, working prominently as journalists and in positions of power to create news. It also must be pointed out that this is but one day in an entire year of 24/7 broadcasting, so maybe they were just having a bad gender day (whatever that means).

However, she observes, there is no such excuse for lack of diversity in presenters. News organisations should be showing best practice in this regard and yet consistently fail. Why is this still so? Why it so hard for an editor to look at a rundown and go ‘hang on, this is not representative”? I’m not sure of the overall gender split of Radio 4’s audience (anyone?) but I’d be surprised if it was as lopsided as the figures above.

Several feminists, journalists and activists on Twitter use the hashtag #diversityaudit conduct informal diversity audits of news programmes on radio and TV while they’re on, including Newsnight and others, and the results are all too often very depressing. I know I bang on about gender diversity on this blog a lot but it’s one of the basic rules of good media – if you’re not representing the population you’re said to serve you’re not serving them at all! This extends to all media outlets in this country, not just the BBC.

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