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Improvement in proportion of expert women appearing in the news may have stalled, study finds

Professor Lis Howell announces findings of her new study at the 2018 Women on Air conference

by City Press Office (General enquiries)

New research from City, University of London has revealed that a previously observed improvement in the proportion of expert women interviewed on news programmes has now stalled.

The research was undertaken by Professor Lis Howell, Director of Broadcasting at City, ahead of the 2018 Women on Air conference at City on Thursday 14th June.

Professor Howell surveyed five weekday episodes from thesix flagship news programmes produced by the UK’s leading broadcasters – BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky – for one week in every month over a two-year period.

Experts were considered to be anyone interviewed because of their expertise, influence or authority, including politicians, sports people and celebrities.

Experts

The study showed there was an overall improvement in expert ratios on average across the six programmes monitored, with a rise of 29 per cent in the two years since the last City survey in 2016. However almost all of this improvement occurred by 2017, with little change into 2018. BBC News at Ten actually fielded fewer women experts in the second year of the study (2017/18) than in the first year (2016/17).

Overall, the improvement in the number of women expert appearances between 2016/17 and 2017/18 was fractional, which indicates that the process may have stalled.

“The two biggest programmes still have a lower number of female experts than the level of female expertise in society, which is around 2.5:1. ITV News at Ten has a ratio of 2.5:1 and BBC News at Ten has a ratio of 3:1,” Professor Howell said.

Professor Howell said that ITV News at Ten, despite still having a disproportionate number of male experts, has improved by 31 per cent since 2015/16 whereas BBC News at Ten has improved by only 18 per cent.

She added: “However, they both have a way to go to achieve a ratio of fewer than 2.5 men to every woman expert. Channel 4 and Channel 5 perform best here.”

Broadcaster

Ratio

(men : women)

2017/18

Ratio

(men : women)

2016/17

Ratio

(men : women)

2015/16

Channel 4 News

2 : 1

2.5 : 1

2.2 : 1

Sky News

2.4 : 1

2.8 : 1

2.8 : 1

ITV News at Ten

2.5 : 1

2.6 : 1

3.6 : 1

Today, BBC Radio 4

2.3 : 1

2.2 : 1

2.8 : 1

BBC News at Ten

3.1 : 1

2.7 : 1

3.8 : 1

5 News

1.5 : 1

1.6 : 1

2.1 : 1

Average

2.2 : 1

2.3 : 1

2.9 : 1

Reporters/correspondents

The average for reporters and correspondents was 2:1 in 2015/16. It is now 1.5:1. However, ITV News at Ten is the same at 2.6 men to every woman reporter; and BBC News at Ten is marginally worse at 2.3 men to every woman as opposed to 2.1 men to every woman in 2015/16.

Professor Howell said Today on BBC Radio 4 and 5 News now have slightly more female than male reporters, and these two programmes are responsible for the shift in the average.

Broadcaster

Ratio

(men : women)

2017/18

Ratio

(men : women)

2016/17

Ratio

(men : women)

2015/16

Channel 4 News

1.5 : 1

1.8 : 1

1.8 : 1

Sky News

1.3 : 1

1.8 : 1

2 : 1

ITV News at Ten

2.6 : 1

2.8 : 1

2.6 : 1

Today, BBC Radio 4

1 : 1.3

2.6 : 1

1.7 : 1

BBC News at Ten

2.3 : 1

2.3 : 1

2.1 : 1

5 News

1 : 1.02

1.4 : 1

1.1 : 1

Average

1.5 : 1

2.1 : 1

2 : 1

Presenters

The study found ITV News at Ten has eight times more male presenter led programmes than female presenter led programmes, which is because of the predominance of Tom Bradby. Today on BBC Radio 4 has twice as many male presenter appearances, as female. Channel 4 News also has twice as many male presenter appearances as female presenter appearances.

Broadcaster

Ratio

(men : women)

2017/18

Ratio

(men : women)

2016/17

Ratio

(men : women)

2015/16

Channel 4 News

2.3 : 1

1.6 : 1

2.7 : 1

Sky News

1.01 : 1

1 : 1.41

1 : 1

ITV News at Ten

8 : 1

7.4 : 1

5.2 : 1

Today, BBC Radio 4

2.4 : 1

3.55 : 1

2.26 : 1

BBC News at Ten

1.5 : 1

1.4 : 1

2.1 : 1

5 News

1 : 1.4

1.6 : 1

1 : 1.3

Average

1.2 : 1

1.2 : 1

2 : 1

'No broadcaster can claim parity'

Men still dominate in flagship news, but not as much as they did. For the aggregate for experts, reporters and presenters, the ratio of women to men has improved by 30 per cent since 2016.

Professor Howell, who has been organising these surveys since 2013, said she was pleased to see significant improvements but that more needed to be done.

She said: “When we started five years ago there were at least four times as many male experts interviewed on these programmes as women. It’s brilliant to see such a big improvement in the number of women experts interviewed and this is down to the efforts made by the broadcasters through initiatives like the Expert Women training days at the BBC, familiarisation for women experts at ITN, and improved databases.

“However, ITV News at Ten and BBC News at Ten remain male dominated and, with the exception of Channel 5, no broadcaster can claim parity or near parity across the three categories we surveyed – experts, reporters and presenters.  And the fact that not much has changed in the last year means that we have to keep the pressure up. Male expertise still dominates in society, so a ratio of 2:1 male to female experts is realistic and achievable and all these programmes should be achieving this or better. However, having women on air journalists outnumbered by men on air journalists is unacceptable, and this situation needs to be reviewed.”

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