Zoe Williams in the Guardian the “sexism/ageism pincer movement in the world of broadcast journalism”: where “women are only employed in the first place because they are attractive, and then they’re pensioned off upon reaching an age when they could still reasonably be Bruce Forsyth’s granddaughter”.

Williams, writing after Ceri Thomas answered questions from the BBC Feedback panel, detects there is a BBC policy, perhaps written in a document somewhere: “Plan for current affairs: two oppositional blokes and a little lady.” Contrasts this with Channel 4 News and other commercial broadcasters where women are less prone to be given “lightweight” stories.

Conclusion: “I think it’s the sheer geological pace of change, more than any active agenda of misogyny, that’s locked the BBC in an era of sexual politics decades behind the commercial channels. They need to sort it out: it’s a public service broadcaster; it makes us all look bad.”

More discussion on Guardian’s Media Talk

Photocredit: Mark Hillary via a Creative Commons licence


The question first came up last week when the editor of Radio 4’s Today programme answered questions from a member of the BBC’s Feedback panel about why there are so few women on the programme.
A week later his comments have been criticised:
Liz Hoggard in the Independent
Mark Jefferies on
The suggestion that the Today programme is a boys’ club doesn’t surprise everyone .and also generated discussion about desirable presenting styles.
It seems he’s also making a broad comment about the BBC that there aren’t enough authoritative women to choose from: a point former presenter Sue MacGregor takes issue with in the Telegraph.

Working on Today means having to hold to account some of the toughest and most slippery characters on the national and international stage. A thick skin is helpful but not a prerequisite. More important is political nous, on-air confidence and as much preparation as you can handle. Plenty of women have these skills in abundance. Let’s hear more of them on air.

Which women would you like to see presenting the programme?

Photocredit: Bowbrick via a Creative Commons licence

Photo by Carpetblogger through a Creative Commons license

The story about primary school children being given lessons in gender equality as part of a government campaign to tackle domestic violence by 2011 was headline news on 25 November, which was Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
Here’s just a sample of the coverage from: the BBC; The Guardian; New Statesman and the Daily Mail.
Five days later it was in China View that I first got to read about a 16-day campaign to eliminate violence against women in Afghanistan.
The New York Times also picked up the story with a piece headlined Rape In Afghanistan A Profound Problem, U.N. Says
News agency AFP was at the same press briefing with Norah Niland, Chief Human Rights Officer of United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.

Violence targeting women and girls is widespread and deeply rooted in Afghan society. It is not adequately challenged and condemned by society and institutions,” said Norah Niland. “The space for women in public life is shrinking. The trend is negative.
“It’s also a problem because there is very little possibility of finding justice, there is no explicit provision in the 1976 Afghan penal code that criminalises rape.

A journalist who frequently travels to Afghanistan told me it has become almost impossible to find editors interested in stories about women in the country.
“We’ve done it already” is a familiar refrain heard in newsrooms when stories are put forward about women in Afghanistan, about honour crimes, about domestic violence.
Can you imagine an editor saying ‘Sorry, we did a story about a sacked football manager last week’? Since when did stories about women become so “niche”?
The line at the end of the China View piece was particularly striking:

Some 100 women in attempt to get rid of miseries mostly due to domestic violence, according to media reports have committed self-immolation over the past one year in Afghanistan.

The BBC did look at Afghan women who turn to immolation in March this year and November 2006 and there are organisations such as the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan are working to highlight the issue
I know that it can often be a question of resources for cash-strapped news organisations and that a story has to be “new” to make the news, but I’ve heard some fascinating and shocking and depressing stories about women around the world that are unlikely to ever see the light of day in a national news paper or on a news bulletin. It’s a reminder that you have to look beyond the mainstream news agenda to get a balanced diet.

Steve Hewlett focused on how twitter was used during the Mumbai attacks on the Media Show today.
Among those interviewed was Rory Cellan Jones who blogs about Mumbai and Twitter here.

Over on The Ushahidi Blog, Ory Okollah reflects on how her open-source crisis project fared in the DRC.

Okollah points to the need for a strong blogging community such as those that exist in Mumbai and in Kenya – where the project was first launched as a tool for people who witness acts of violence after the election.

The nature of the crisis in DRC also played a part: “As one person closely involved in assisting people affected by the crisis in DRC pointed out to me, in a crisis situation most people are on the run – they don’t have time to file reports etc. In a place like Eastern DRC that is compounded by things like electricity cuts so phones can’t be charged; difficulties having the resources to buy credit so the SMS functionality doesn’t really help them…”

The project got some coverage in Forbes and Kenya’s Daily Nation.