Gillian Martin and Kirsty Strickland take a look at women's political representation in the media this week, and it's fair to say that some shows really must try harder...
This week has been very interesting at #WFImediawatch. Most encouraging has been the dialogue that has been opened up between WFI and some of our news producers over the issue of more women contributors appearing in their shows. Last week we gave Scotland Tonight a wee skelp over their lack of female pundits and guests and, kudos to them, they got in touch with us to give their point of view but more importantly seek our opinion on how they can get more women involved in their commentary of the week's political events.
Assistant Producer of Scotland Tonight, James Cheyne gave us his opinion on why we see a lot fewer women on screen. He points to a systemic imbalance of females in print journalism, academia and politics as having a root effect on this but claims that Scotland Tonight strive to get gender balance whenever they can and he asserts that his colleagues over on BBC do the same.
He also told me that the show has put together a list of excellent female commentators whom they call on pretty much every week. He cites Kate Devlin at The Herald, Lesley Riddoch at The Scotsman, Lindsay Mackintosh at The Times, as well as The Sunday Times Gillian Bowditch. He claims that Scotland Tonight makes a concerted effort to go after female commentators first and tries to adapt our plans to suit those we approach, but finds that this often isn't enough and they do sometimes struggle to get female contributors for the subject matter in hand.
The offer has been made to Women for Independence to work with Scotland Tonight on correcting the imbalance, and we welcome this wholeheartedly. We'll keep you posted on developments and we hope to do a more detailed interview with Scotland Tonight on this soon.
We should also add that this week Scotland Tonight have been more gender equal in their contributions. Their numbers read like this:
- 20 April: Interview with Nicola Sturgeon and Peter Geoghan and Lindsay McIntosh as commentators
- 21 April: Item on corroboration abolition: Sandy Brindley, Thomas Ross, Michael Matheson
Other contributors: Willie Rennie, Nicola Sturgeon, Jim Murphy, Ruth Davidson
- 22 April: Interview with Ruth Davidson
- 23 April: Commentators: Lesley Riddoch, Isobel Hardman and Peter Ross
Our Gold Star of the week, however, goes to Pete Wishart MP. Pete was very critical of the lack of female panellists on Scotland 2015's debate on Defence and Foreign Affairs and tweeted them to tell them so. Scotland 2015 then replied stating that they were at the mercy of whoever political parties offered them as contributors. However, what impressed us most was his declaration that he would not appear on any panel that did not have at least one female representative, thus laying down a gauntlet not just to programme producers but to other political parties. What's becoming very clear to us that it's a push from both sides that's required to make a difference.
If we had a #WFImediawatch STAR OF THE WEEK badge, we'd mail it to him. Perhaps one of our members would like to design such a thing.....
Incidentally, our numbers for this week's Scotland 2015 are as follows:
- 20th: Defence & Foreign Affairs Debate: 4 Men/0 Women (the debate referred to by Pete Wishart above)
- 21st: Commentators: 1 Man/2 Women Interview with FM
- 22nd: Commentators: 5 men/1 woman
- 23rd: Commentators: 2 men/1 woman plus an interview with Jim Murphy
The Wooden Spoon Award seems to be more hotly contested. The figures of male to female interviews and panellists on Daily Politics are a bit of a bleak read. Their series of debates break down like this:
- 20th April: Environment & Climate Change: 4 men 1 woman
- 21st April: Foreign Affairs debate: 5 men
- 22nd April: Economy debate: 5 men
- 23rd April: Education debate: 4 men 1 woman
How much this is to do with the political parties themselves is of course, up for discussion. Being subject focussed parties are clearly putting representatives up from those areas of responsibility which highlights areas where women aren't representing policy at a high level. If anyone from the Daily Politics production team would like to give us their view, we'd be very keen to give them their right of reply. Kirsty already spoke on Twitter to panellist Jo Coburn on her appearances on Daily Politics and Labour MP,Carolyn Flint, on being the one of only two female panellists on the week's Daily Politics Debates.
The standard Daily Politics show had a mixed week contributor-wise. It breaks down like this:
- 20th April: 4 men 2 women
- 21st April: 8 men 0 women
- 22nd April: 4 men 2 women
- 23rd April: 8 men 2 women
This week we gave our newest contributor to #WFImediawatch Stephanie Chesney the mammoth task of monitoring Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland show all week. After 15 hours of listing Stephanie totted up the entire week's contributions from commentators and interviewees:
- Monday: Male-32: Female-7
- Tuesday: Male-36: Female- 14
- Wednesday: Male-29: Female: 12
- Thursday: Male -37; Female -17
- Friday: M (31) F (8)
Stephanie also did a day by day breakdown of which subjects were covered and the gender balance, which showed political items was particularly lacking in female commentary. We'll continue to monitor this in coming weeks and months and do a more detailed breakdown in a future post.
However, this week's Wooden Spoon goes firmly to BBC2's Newsnight for having a right wee tabloidesque cairry oan. Nicola Sturgeon's head atop Kim Kardashian's so called "internet-breaking" body has come straight from the bottom of the barrel. We just can't work out if it's just the objectification and sexualisation of the politicians involved that makes our teeth itch or merely the shonky standard of Photoshop work on the images. You decide:
Whatever, we're a bit sick of seeing the media objectifying Nicola Sturgeon. First the Sun puts her on Ms Cyrus's wrecking ball and now she's got her head stuck on to Kim Kardashian's body by a so-called high brow news and current affairs show. Way to encourage women into politics, Newsnight! And don't think subjecting male politicians to the same treatment is any justification. Your viewing public, rightly so, has not been impressed if Twitter is anything to go by, so enjoy eating some humble pie next week with your #WFImediawatch wooden spoon.