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Regulator must step in to monitor how TV and radio industry treats women

Michelle Stanistreet and Kate Kinninmont at the Lords Communciations Committee's inquiry into women in broadcasting.  -  © parliament

23 October 2014

Ofcom must stop shirking its duty find out why women in broadcasting find promotion more difficult, get paid less and eventually leave, peers were told by Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary.

Giving evidence to the Lords Communications Committee inquiry into women and broadcasting, Michelle Stanistreet said the broadcasting regulator needed to monitor diversity data and make it transparent. She said: 

"Ofcom has shirked that responsibility. It should be a core duty, it is something that can easily be done, and the whole industry would benefit. Publishing such information would lead to changes in behaviour."

She added the industry’s self-imposed initiatives had not worked and regulation was needed.

The panel, which included Kate Kinninmont, chief executive of Women in Film and Television, and Jane Martinson, chair of Women in Journalism, agreed there were entrenched cultural reasons why men were favoured in TV and radio and the broader industry.

Michelle Stanistreet said:

“In the NUJ’s experience, women appear to start on level pegging in their careers and then they reach a stage where they find more discrimination in terms of the opportunities afforded to them and the way they are treated. It is also staggering that, decades after equality legislation, there is still unequal pay.
"In a survey of our women broadcasters, for the purposes of this inquiry, we found women were being paid £10,000 less and in one case 40 per cent less than men doing commensurate work because they don’t have the same genitalia.”

The survey found 56 per cent of NUJ women members working in broadcasting, or who had recently worked in broadcasting, were subject to gender discrimination, 45 per cent experienced sexism from their managers and 41 per cent felt they had been held back by being a mother.

Survey reveals women earn less than male counterparts in broadcasting

Jane Martinson, said that by the time media workers reached their 30s, there was clear divide: men tended to stay on while women did not.

Michelle Stanistreet said there was the need for more family-friendly working practices and measures to prevent women who worked part-time from being treated unfairly and being overlooked despite their experience and talent.

She described how bullying and harassment of women was widespread in the industry. The union had put together a 100-page dossier into the BBC’s Rose Review into bullying at the corporation and discovered some shocking cases and practices condoned by the corporation's management. She said it was very difficult to bring about cultural change in an organisation as big and bureaucratic as the BBC.

Kate Kinninmont said there was a similar situation in the films and drama sector, where only 13 per cent of drama directors were women. She agreed that Ofcom needed to take a stronger role in monitoring and exposing the facts and figures.The campaign to get more women experts on TV and radio had worked by shaming programmes such as Radio 4’s Today for using so few women.

The casualisation of the industry was also affecting women’s ability to progress, the peers were told. It made it more difficult for people to complain if they were being paid less or being bullied because of their age or sex if they were dependent on getting more shifts from the organisation.

Watch the session on Parliament TV (starts at 16.40)

Tags: , broadcasting, equality, women, house of lords, television, radio, pay