News, Current Affairs, Politics, Media, Sport, Entertainment and Life in General from Ireland
A few weeks ago on Coleman at Large on Newstalk 106-108fm, a texter argued that the majority of graduates on media related courses in Ireland were men. I must dispute this assertion, I have been lecturing in Journalism and Media Production in Dun Laoghaire IADT for the past five years and more recently, Griffith College, Dublin, and this contention is not borne out by the statistics. In the main, each year I have found that significantly more women, take media courses and graduate from them.
This year there were around three quarters of one of my classes at masters level that were women, and this high level of female participation in media courses has been a constant for the years I have been lecturing in media. The average usually runs at almost two thirds of female students, however this isn’t reciprocated in the amount of women on air with the state and independent and local broadcasters, in particular in radio. Female graduates often find work as broadcast assistants, news readers, reporters and producers, but there is a significant absence of female voices on air as presenters, contributors and analysts.
Looking through the RTE Radio 1 primetime schedule (7am to 7pm) there are no regular female voices, apart from Brenda Donohue as a contributor on Mooney, from 9am until 4.30pm (Miriam O’Callaghan is covering for John Murray), this is the case also on most of the independent national and local broadcasters throughout the country. The lack of female voices to the forefront of our schedules, is a major imbalance in the radio broadcasting environment and it does not reflect the level of talented broadcast and media communications graduates that are vying for work in an industry that is dominated by male voices and perspectives.
A survey released today shows that only 1 in 3 women are represented on Irish Radio according to a survey conducted in February:
WHAT IS WOMEN ON AIR:
Women on Air is a voluntary networking group that runs seminars and informal training workshops to help give women the skills and confidence to go on radio and television. It was started in summer 2010 by journalist Margaret E. Ward. All women involved – from the presenters to committee members – volunteer their time to ensure a greater diversity of voices on the airwaves.
Why was it started?
Many women, no matter how expert they may be in their field, seem hesitant to state their views in public forums such as radio, television or in live debates. They tend to shy away from opinion journalism. Producers and researchers also report that they have great difficulty getting women on the airwaves.
The Women on Air talks provide female area experts with practical broadcasting tips, inside information and industry contacts. Through the seminars women come to understand that their opinions are valid – and wanted – by radio researchers and producers. They also form networks of women who cheerlead and encourage them to get on radio or TV.
Who are the members?
Many of these women are experts in their field – from surgeons and scientists to CEOs, journalists and the heads of charitable organisations – but they lack the confidence to make their points in the media. Some of these women are regular contributors to radio and TV but they would like informal training to either give them more experience as a contributor, extra polish or so they can eventually try their hand as radio/ TV presenters.
What else do we do?
1. Research the possible barriers to women on radio and TV and seek to break them down. Liaise with academic community and politicians to ensure more research is done in this area.
2. Provide a list for producers and researchers of hundreds of female area experts on www.journalist.iewho are willing to go on radio and TV to share their views, opinions and experience.
3. Gently persuade media executives, producers and researchers that more women are possible on air.
4. Suggest organisations that can offer women further training.
5. Assist and cheerlead women who want to get on the airwaves through Twitter, Facebook, email, phone calls and text messages.
Women on Air background
In May 2010, Margaret read an article by then Sunday Tribune journalist Una Mullally about the lack of women on Irish radio in an article called “Radio Gaga”:
Mullally found that 80% to 90% of radio presenters were men. Women, when they did appear on radio schedules, tended to broadcast outside of the prime time hours of 7am to 7pm.
When Margaret asked media executives about these statistics she was told that when it came to presenters “Listeners prefer men” and as for contributors they said “There are no women available to talk about economics/ business/ politics/ sport/ science”. No matter how hard she tried she could not find any evidence for either assertion. As a journalist, she wanted the hard facts and started digging for research that backed it up.
No research seemed to exist except a chapter in a book called “The Psychology of Radio” published in 1935. The authors were highly regarded experts so it seems very little research was done after this. The research they did was also highly flawed. It only involved 88 people (44 men and 44 women) and the questions were not well structured. The results showed that the preference “Listeners prefer men” was largely based on gender bias rather than to any aversion to the tone of a woman’s voice.
Hadley Cantril and G. W. Allport, The Psychology of Radio (New York 1935, reprinted 1971,1986)http://bit.ly/a1K91V
When it came to contributors, many stations often had all-male panels or one woman on a panel, according to “snapshot” research conducted by Lucy Keaveney, retired Deputy Principal and Equality Studies Student at UCD and founder of the Countess Markievicz summer school.
Keaveney listened to and noted the male/ female contributors to radio over a two week period in Sept, 2010. Male guests held sway with an 80% to 90% representation during the prime main listening hours.
More solid scientific research is needed in this area.
Twitterati to the rescue
As Margaret wrote about all these little findings on Twitter (@margareteward) in July 2010 Helen McCormack (@helenmccmormack), producer of Tom McGurk’s radio show on 4FM, suggested she come up with a list of women who could talk on various subjects. So, The List of female area experts was born on womenonair.ie. So far, we have more than 800 entries detailing women who are interested in contributing or presenting on radio or TV.
Another Twitterer, Helen O’Rahilly (@TellyDubby), former executive at RTE TV, started asking what the list was for and what Margaret’s plans were. She explained it saying she was thinking of approaching a media training company to see if they would offer a low-cost training session for a group of women. Helen immediately offered to do it – for free – in mid-October when she was home from London. Then, at her suggestion, we asked Helen Shaw, former director of TV to join in. She agreed immediately.
In the background of all this, a professional researcher Aoife Connolly (@Aoife_Connolly) did more in-depth research to make sure we hadn’t missed any studies on Women on Radio.
For more information on Women on Air please contact: Margaret E. Ward, Margaret@clearink.ie, 087 207 0495/ 01 832 9595 or one of the committee members.