Over the last eight years, researchers from City, University of London have tracked the proportion of women experts, reporters and presenters on the UK’s top broadcast news programmes.
Using preliminary data from 2010, their research revealed significant under-representation of women experts compared to men. The first key finding published in 2013 revealed that men outnumbered women by a ratio of 4.4 to one.
Since then, these figures have inspired a catalyst for change, fuelling a campaign for better representation of women experts on air, which involved the BBC Academy and included expert women training, conferences and multi-national media coverage.
What did we explore and how?
The research which was led by City’s Department of Journalism as part of the Expert Women Project, used multiple datasets to explore how women feature as on-air experts in broadcast news reports.
From 2013, the researchers began collecting monthly data from four leading UK news programmes that reach total audiences of approximately 6 million per day. Two additional broadcasters were added to the sample in 2014 and further work was done in surveying women experts themselves and the production staff that booked them.
The study findings were presented at City’s three Women on Air Conferences, which invited senior editors from the UK’s biggest national broadcasters and interested politicians.
Benefits and influence of this research
Research from the survey has highlighted and addressed huge inequalities in the media and increased gender representation. Almost twice as many women now feature in broadcast and radio interviews compared to the number in 2014.
Influences from the research were also be highlighted during the Women on Air conferences, where in April 2014 the figures showed 4.4 men to every woman interviewed across leading UK news programmes. By the second conference in 2016, this ratio was just over 3:1 and by 2018 it was 2:1 male to female experts – much more reflective of the prevalence of women experts in UK society. However, according to more recent monitoring during the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020 media coverage of the virus saw a three-year high of 2.7 men for every one woman expert.
The BBC’s training arm, the BBC Academy, also introduced ‘Expert Women’ days, which recruited 500 women subject specialists, providing them with a full day’s worth of media training. The broadcaster also committed to achieving a 50/50 ratio of male to female experts in its news, current affairs and topical programmes by April 2019.
Details of this research
Research status: Ongoing