This was my dissertation for which I was awarded a first
CAN WE DETERMINE IF THERE HAS BEEN, OR THAT THERE STILL IS GENDER INEQUALITY IN THE BROADCAST INDUSTRY?
In this essay I will be asking the question can we determine whether there has been, or that there still is gender inequality in the broadcast industry? I will be focusing on public service and commercial British radio, with occasional reference to international networks. This essay will be split into six chapter’s following an introduction and prior to a conclusion, appendix and bibliography.
The introduction explains what the terms gender inequality and sexism mean and how they both impact society. I also analyse some statistics regarding how females are represented currently in the broadcast industry introducing organisations like RAJAR and Sound Women.
Chapter one analyses the history of the representation of women in the broadcast industry.
Chapter two gives evidence of gender inequality in the broadcast industry analysing the past five years with examples of sexist incidents and this chapter also discusses five theories relating to why gender inequality in the broadcast industry exists.
Chapter’s three, four and five are case studies. The first case study analysing the social impact of Woman’s Hour, the second is analysing the life of Annie Nightingale the first female presenter at BBC Radio1 and the third, analysing the transition from the radio station Xfm to Radio X.
The final chapter investigates what has, and is being done to tackle gender inequality in the broadcast industry and then brings the essay to the present day analysing how we are progressing.
The conclusion summarizes my findings and answers my proposed essay question. I also briefly discuss my opinion on what the future holds for females in the broadcast industry.
- The history of gender representation in the broadcast industry.
- Evidence for gender inequality in the broadcast industry analysing the past five years and why it exists.
- Case study one. The social impact of the radio programme Woman’s Hour.
- Case study two. Annie Nightingale: Radio 1’s first female presenter.
- Case study three. The transition from Xfm to Radio X.
- What has, and is being done to tackle gender inequality in the broadcast industry and how are we progressing?
Conclusion – what does the future hold for females?
To put simply, gender inequality in the workplace refers to women being discriminated against due to their gender. According to Cecilia Ridgeway (2011, p1) we can describe the term gender inequality in more depth as:
‘An ordinal hierarchy between men and women in material resources, power and status… The material base of gender inequality seemed to rest firmly on women’s relative absence from the paid labour force, compared to men.’
Where gender inequality appears, men are seen as socially more powerful than their female counterparts. But why do we have gender inequality? Gender inequality originates from outdated social gender norms, where specific sexes are expected to act a certain way, be interested in certain topics and work specific jobs:
‘Various agents of socialization channel people into performing culturally approved gender roles. The family, the school, the mass media are among the most important of these agents of socialization. Once the sex of the child is known, parents and teachers tend to treat boys and girls differently in terms of the kind of play, dress and learning they encourage. The mass media reinforce the learning of masculine and feminine roles by making different characteristics seem desirable in boys, girls, men and women.’ (Brym, R, Lie, J 2013: P225)
In relation to gender inequality, in this essay I use the term sexism which is a term similar to gender inequality but refers to a specific act of gender discrimination to either sex. But why does sexism exist? No Bullying (2015) suggests that sexism originates from:
‘The purist form of sexism is an attitude that women are inferior to men. The idea comes from a variety of sources such as skewed religious beliefs, parental conditioning, peer pressure, distorted workforce politics and more’ (No Bullying 2015)
Gender inequality can impact on society in many ways, it can teach wrong values to the next generation and it also means women become physiologically distressed from not being appreciated or acknowledged for the same achievements as their counter-parts, or even not getting paid the same for their efforts. More recently The Guardian states gender inequality impacts society by becoming a ‘socially unjust battle’:
‘When male and female roles are under constant redefinition, dictated not least by the market and the need to earn a family wage, while a certain class of men, accustomed to generations in power, see both their influence and “their” institutions challenged, it can become a bruising and, at times, ugly, contradictory and profoundly socially unjust battle.’ (The Guardian 2014)
In this case, I will be specifically investigating whether gender inequality exists in the broadcast industry. Since radio first broadcasted in the 1920s there has been deliberation by males and females as to whether gender inequality exists.
Radio is an important topic of study due to how much of the population consume it daily. Caroline Mitchell (2000) points this out in her investigation that ‘Radio is thus entwined into the rhythm of our everyday lives through its texts, genres, discourses, institutions and industry.’ (Mitchell, C 2000: p2)
Looking at the term radio in more depth, Edgar Malatji (2013) states that there are three primary functions of radio:
- [To] educate (education): ‘any programme on Radio can have an educational function’.
- [To] inform (information): ‘presentation of facts without being coloured in any way by any personal attitude or interpretation of the communicator without any intentions to persuade.’
- [To] entertain (entertainment): ‘Entertainment aims to provide a release from stress and tension, it also allows for increased socialising, it is the gratification received by the listener from the programme.’
In this essay I will be focusing on public service and commercial British radio, with occasional reference to international networks as similar attitudes and trends can be applied across different countries.
Before analysing the subject it is important to note that in an era of changing technology, and various options given to us as consumers; that radio is still an unquestionable popular platform to find out information, enjoy entertainment and educate.
The Music Consumption report (2014) states that 65% of people in the UK looking to discover new music, do so via radio. Also, according to the Ofcom news consumption in the UK report (2014) 36% of people who absorb the news still use the radio.
The organisation RAJAR (Radio Joint Audience Research) which is jointly owned by the BBC and RadioCentre, has created a measurement system that calculates quarterly audience listening figures for the UK broadcast industry and has done so since 1992. According to RAJAR’s survey for 2015, the population listening to radio has risen from 47,799,000 (Q1 March 2015) to 48,237,000 (Q4 December 2015), which means the radio industry is gaining listeners, not losing them.
RAJAR’s (2015) survey for the quarterly period ending 20th December 2015 also confirms radio listening reaches 90% of the population per week.
In the same quarterly period (Q4 2015), RAJAR (2015) has also discovered that seven out of the nine network Global Radio stations are closely listened to equally by men and women, with none of these stations reaching more than a 9% ratio gap. But overall, five out of the eight most popular stations owned by Global have more women than men listening to their stations (figure 1).
Similarly, following trends of small ratio gaps is the BBC. RAJAR’s 2015 fourth quarterly summary found that Radio 1 is reaching 50.7% women, Radio 2 is reaching 47.8% women and Radio 4 is reaching 49.9% women (figure 2).
In a study carried out by the Office for National Statistics (2011), they found that in the United Kingdom there was 1.2 million more woman than men living in the country. In 2013 they also found that ‘In April to June 2013 around 67% of women aged 16 to 64 were in work, an increase from 53% in 1971. For men the percentage fell to 76% in 2013 from 92% in 1971.’
Comparing these statistics, If there is more woman in the country than men, increasingly more woman in the workplace and an equal amount of men and women consuming radio, then why is it that in a study conducted by Sound Women in 2013 it was found that 1 in 5 solo voices on the radio is female? That figure is 1 in 8 during peak-time breakfast and drive hours. It is interesting to note that although more women are in employment and radio stations appeal to women just as equally as men that women presenters are not equally representing the brands compared to their male counterparts.
Chapter one. The history of gender representation in the broadcast industry.
This chapter analyses the origins and history of gender representation in the broadcast industry.
Gender inequality and representation can be traced back to the 1800s in the form of public speaking which has similar traits and transferable skills to the broadcast industry. And we can ask the question as to whether it was these social norms that effected, or effects the views on whether women should be presenting radio:
‘When ordinary women spoke formally in public in the 1830s they were vilified for moving out of their ‘natural’ feminine, domestic sphere of the home, onto public platforms formerly occupied exclusively by male public speakers. Early female public speakers refuted the idea that women’s voices were naturally unsuitable for public speaking’. (Mitchell, C 2000: p11)
But why are women’s voices unsuitable for public speaking? This theory will be addressed more in chapter two when I investigate why gender inequality exists in the broadcast industry. But, McKay (2000) suggests that:
‘The exclusion of girls from formal education meant that few had the chance to develop the required intellectual tools of public discourse, even if some had possessed the necessary vocal power.’ (McKay, A 2000: p16)
When radio entered people’s homes in the 1920s it especially catered to women as society at that time excluded women from certain public venues:
‘The next ten years saw the development of the medium that would do more than any other to move public life into the private sphere-as radio moved into the living room, so too did many aspects of politics, leisure, and civic-participation. Increasingly, radio provided substitutes for venues that remained closed to women.’ (Hilmes, M 1999: p32-33)
Expanding on this, a huge proportion of women in the 1920s were housewives or stay at home mothers not deemed much more worthy of any other type of employment by their male peers. This is why radio was a more favourable method of consumption for women:
‘Radio plays an important role in the lives of housewives, relieving their feelings of isolation and helping to lighten the spirits while doing chores.’ (RAB 2000: 8. Quoted by Mitchell, C 2000: p4)
However, although radio seemed like a positive medium for women it wasn’t necessarily catered to them in a positive way. There were no women representing women on the radio, and according to McKay (2000) those that tried failed:
‘When they attempted to use it in ways that would lead to change in the traditional order and in women’s customary roles, their right to use it at all was challenged.’ (McKay, A 2000: p15)
It could be seen that because of these views and unfair judgement on women that society started relying on the fact that men’s voices were the ones we were supposed to hear dominating radio. In McKay’s (2000: p25) research he shares a survey entitled ‘Men vs. Women as Announcers’ conducted by WJZ (1926). The survey found ‘out of 5000 listeners the vote was 100 to 1 in favour of men as announcers’. It’s not clear as to what the ratio of men to women taking part in the survey was; but this is evidence for social norms being favoured to men:
‘Radio’s negotiation of race and gender, of the unacceptable and the transgressive, took place in a framework of commercial development and evolving institutional practices that shaped the narrative and voices dominating radio practice for the next thirty years.’ (Hilmes, M 1999: p96)
This attitude toward women’s voices being vigorously pushed from radio continued throughout the decades. Looking at an example in the 1930s, Giles Borrett (1933) who had a trail shift at the BBC and was the BBC’s first female broadcast announcer. According to McKay, although she was ‘highly praised for her performance’:
‘Her contract was abruptly terminated. Reasons were never specified exactly, but speculations ranged along a familiar gamut, from allegations of listeners’ objections to a woman’s voice in the announcer’s role to objections that, as a married women, she was taking a man’s job.’ (McKay, A 2000: p22)
Similarly, was negative attitudes towards women broadcasters in the United States of America. To compare, another incident similar to the BBC incident happened in 1935, but this time at the American company NBC. They hired their first female Elsie Janis however, her employer insensitively stated:
‘[Not] quite sure what type of programme her hoarse voice is best suited for, but he is certain she will read no more… Listeners complained that a woman’s voice was inappropriate.’ (Radio announcer 1935: 24. Quoted McKay, A 2000: p22)
As social norms and society’s acceptance of women slowly became more acceptable we got the rise of women’s activist groups in favour of promoting equality for women. There are currently and have been a few groups and organizations throughout the decades that make equal rights for women their aim and confronting those who oppose. An example of a current group is Sound Woman mentioned in the introduction of this essay. But, one of the first analysed gender equality groups is Women in Media. Mileva Ross (1977) a member of Women in Media publicly addressed issues with the radio industry’s values towards women. Mitchell (2000: p4) claims Ross ‘concluded that more training was needed to redress the lack of female employees in different sectors of the radio industry.’
Shortly following Women in Media is an organisation named Women’s Airwaves (WAW), once named Women’s Radio Workshop (1979). Mitchell explains that:
‘WAW offered training and support for women working in radio and carried out research to support its campaigns to increase representation of feminist issues on air.’ (Mitchell, C 2000: p95)
These views and positive campaigns for gender equality for radio were recognised and as time went on more people called out for change. For example a woman named Anne Krapf (1980):
‘Suggested that there was a need for a wider range of programmes that represented the ‘truths’ of women’s lives – including unashamedly giving feminist-influenced work a fair hearing and creating an industry where women could create their own stations as well as contributing to wider mainstream programming agendas.’ (Mitchell, C 2000: p4)
However, does giving more feminist-influenced work such as the creation of a women’s radio station work? There is evidence to suggest that although projects like a woman’s radio station is a step towards equality, sometimes they aren’t successful. According to Mitchell (2000: p14) in ‘the UK and the first commercial women’s station lasted barely a year.’
Between 1980 and 1990 we can look at how genre and the music in the era had shaped radio stations and the audiences they catered to. In this decade popular music according to Lauren Goodlad (2003) had shifted towards a ‘heterosexual masculinity norm’, where musicians similarly to Michael Stripe represented a softer side to masculinity. It was in this era, although music may have seem softer and apparently more appropriate to women, it in fact wasn’t:
‘From a feminist point of view, this mainstream “alternative” represented a sort of antisexist sexism. For all its conspicuous androgyny, that is to say, postpunk music culture was unabashedly dominated by male musicians, prone to appropriating “femininity” as a male aesthetic credential rather than to empowering women.’ (Goodlad, L 2003: p137-139)
As radio broadcasting continued, so did gender inequality. The 00s still saw women being underrepresented in the industry. Elizabeth Monk-Turner, Tiffany Kouts, Kevin Parris and Cynthia Webb (2007) conducted a study mirroring that of Adrian Furham and Louise Thomson’s (1999) which compares two British radio stations and the gender stereotyping in their advertisements. Monk-Turner, Kouts, Parris and Webb measured the study by analysing one hundred advertisements from each of two London based radio stations were content analysed and using by using McArthur and Resko’s coding scheme: ’central figures were coded for: credibility, role, argument, reward, product and narrator.’
They found that 72% of central characters were male:
‘Males were significantly more likely to be shown as authorities on products rather than as users; females were portrayed more often than males in dependent roles; and males were most often in the neutral narrator capacity compared to females.’ (Monk-Turner, E, Kouts, T, Parris, K and Webb, C 2007)
Chapter two. Evidence for gender inequality in the broadcast industry analysing the past five years and why it exists.
Reflecting back over chapter one we can draw the conclusion that gender inequality can be traced back to the 1800s, but where is gender inequality now? This chapter looks at examples of sexism in the broadcast industry over the past five years and the theories regarding why gender equality in the broadcast industry may exist. Overall, we can say yes there has been several of incidents of sexism in more recent years, and although inequality has certainly improved, the broadcast industry still faces problems.
For example, according to a survey carried out by the National Union of Journalists (2014) it was found approximately 200 female journalists found working in TV and radio are paid less than their male counterparts, are less likely to be promoted and still face ‘everyday sexism.’ An anonymous woman stated: ‘I’ve been told that I was sent to jobs because I’m attractive, but then I was told not to go for a new job because emotionally I’m a bit weak.’ (Quoted by Doleman, J 2014)
Another anonymous respondent working for the BBC claims: ‘A man at exactly the same grade as me, with far less education and experience, and who joined the BBC after I did was paid £10,000 more than me.’ (Quoted by Doleman, J 2014)
2013 saw a sexist incident at BBC Radio 1 during the breakfast show. Nick Grimshaw and his team sent out an inappropriate tweet during their show degrading a female musician, reading ‘We all think that the girl from @londongrammar is fit. Let us know if you agree on 81199 #ladz’.
Some may say, how this can be seen as sexism. Not only is the tweet outright directed at men by using the term ‘ladz’, according to Owen Bennet (2013) Stephanie Davies-Arai, who is a member of the No More Page 3 campaign answers this question by stating:
‘Her looks are not the most important thing about her, it’s so sexist… I think the presenters need some training as comments like this lessen the importance of female artists.’ (Davies-Arai 2013. Quoted by Bennett 2013)
To give evidence that gender inequality in the broadcast industry is a global issue, we can look at an example of a sexist comment made by an American country music consultant. Keith Hill (2015), supports a theory of women don’t like hearing other women on radio which is discussed further in this chapter. Hill told the publication Country Aircheck that:
‘If you want to make ratings in country radio, take females out… Women like male artists… Trust me, I play great female records and we’ve got some right now; they’re just not the lettuce in our salad. The lettuce is Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton, Keith Urban and artists like that. The tomatoes of our salad are the females.’ (Hill, K 2015. Quoted by Park, A 2015)
Why might we have gender inequality in the broadcast industry? Thus far I have discovered five theories, those theories are childcare and maternity leave, the genre of a station or show, the technical issue, the natural women’s voice, the ‘fantasy’ theory or ‘cultural issue’. This section of chapter two also briefly touches on why we may have gender pay gaps in the broadcast industry and also has more examples of sexism in the past five years in relation to co-hosting.
When looking at why we may have gender inequality in the broadcast industry we can look at the first theory of childcare and maternity. Some women have struggled keeping their jobs in the radio industry once having a child. Johnathan Wynne-Jones (2012) a journalist for The Sunday Telegraph spoke to an anonymous woman preparing a formal complaint to the BBC, the anonymous woman feels ‘humiliated’ by the way she was treated by the BBC and she claims:
‘Trying to juggle a full-time job with having a child is hard enough, but it became impossible when my boss was intent on trying to make my life a misery. The BBC… doesn’t seem to have any room for working mothers.’ (Quoted by Wynne-Jones, J 2012)
However, there are some in the industry who defend radio companies approach to childcare. When I spoke with Heart presenter Zoe Hanson (2016), I asked her whether it was difficult juggling a job in the industry and a having a child. Because of rumours and stories of previous working mothers in the industry, Hanson admitted that at first she was anxious to tell her bosses, claiming that the reason was ‘because [she] thought that would be it for [her]’. Surprisingly, whilst at Capital FM, she claims:
‘The support I had from the bosses here was phenomenal, and they said no we won’t… they said that’s great, and they were so supportive, it was absolutely amazing.’ (Hanson, Z 2016. Figure 3)
Although Hanson manages looking after a child whilst being a radio presenter, she does admit it can be difficult:
‘I’m a single mum that becomes quite difficult. My little one is three, childcare as you’d expect for a breakfast show when there’s no partner at home and I have to get her out of bed at 05:20 and drop her at the childcare which makes me feel guilty and bad’ (Hanson, Z 2015. Figure 3)
It can also be argued that women becoming mothers can change the attitude and approach to the workplace:
‘Although it can be a barrier to the kind of life currently demanded of a senior manager, motherhood can also be a strong motivator in changing organisational custom and practice. Working mothers have overpowering reasons to want change the balance of time spent in the workplace and at home.’ (Millington, C 2000: p216)
The second theory asking why gender inequality exists in the broadcast industry can depend on the genre of a station or show. In other words the content or music played or discussed on a station or show, and what audience are they attempting to attract. For example, looking at BBC 5 Live’s weekly listening reach it is clear that their audience is primarily male with a 72% male weekly listening reach and similarly follows BBC 5 Live Extra which reaches 74.6% (RAJAR 2015 Q4. Figure 2). Within these type of stations there seems to be more sexist incidents than other stations.
For example, similarly to the incident at Radio 1 where a presenter inappropriately comments on the appearance of a female, 2013 saw Colin Murray a presenter at BBC 5 Live suggesting that the perfect athlete would have: ‘the stamina of Mo [Farah], the speed of [Usain] Bolt, the leap of [Greg] Rutherford and the bottom of Jess Ennis’. Without an apology to those opposed to the comment or the athlete herself; he defensively tweeted ‘I said she was the ‘greatest all round athlete in the world’, and according to Ian Burrell (2013) similar attitudes to Murray surfaced: ‘He received many messages of support online from those who thought the criticism was unjustified.’
The third theory is the technical issue. The technical issue describes women who either; haven’t been taught how to use the technical equipment required to produce radio shows or they aren’t trusted to work with the technical equipment. An example of this theory can be found in chapter four in regards to Annie Nightingale discussing working a radio desk. Firstly though, David Holdsworth who is involved in BBC local radio across Britain discusses this issue, claiming:
‘The one issue we have identified with some women, though, is a fear of the technical side of radio…More women are fearful in the first instance of the technical side of that challenge.’ (Holdsworth, D 2014. Quoted by Peacock, L 2014)
The fourth theory is the natural women’s voice which describes the theory that women’s voices are seen to be naturally less powerful than men’s. This theory relates similarly to the early days of public speaking discussed in chapter one. Ong (1974. Quoted by McKay, A 2000: p16) states that ‘the typical male voice can articulate words at far greater volume than can the typical female voice’, and that males:
‘Are said to have had the vocal power needed to address great open air crowds assembled on battlefields, on town squares, and inside vast churches and other public buildings.’ (McKay, A 2000: p16)
It is this theory that can be seen to have affected the opinions of female’s voices in the many years that follow however, just because a male’s voice may be able to amplify louder than a women’s doesn’t necessarily make it more powerful. Women have found ways to become powerful speakers without using volume as a method of engagement:
‘As was to be expected, questions of the heart rather than the intellect, questions of moral and spiritual well-being, have been the most effective in leading women to undertake the work of the platform’ (Dolman 1897:679-80. Quoted by McKay, A 2000: p16)
Furthermore, Mckay (2000: p18) states:
‘Many of these women were identified with powerful, influential men. The few who were not were unusually endowed with intellectual and educational resources and with personal dynamism rare in either gender, which helped them overcome the problem which may be more critical than vocal or oratorical ability – legitimation of their right to speak publicly at all.’
This is interesting to note because the fact women were associated with men in this era can relate to the present day with ‘co-presenters’. There are many women in radio who are capable hosting their own show or even two women hosting their own show but, they are paired with men who for some reason seem to carry the weight of the radio shows they present with their female counter parts. In regards to breakfast shows in the UK, Sound Women (2013) found that the shared presenter hours total to the figure 57% for men and women, men and men 39% and a women with another woman 4%. An in depth example of this comes from Emma Jo Real-Davies who explains how she feels being an female presenter paired with a male at Capital FM Breakfast South Coast:
‘Well first of all my name wasn’t put in the show when I first started this job. I was never really given an explanation as to why that was, and I could only assume part of it was because I was a girl. A lot of the time when I’m spoken to by my boss and other members of staff in the office, I’m spoken to as if I’m a stereotype, like I’m really stupid, that I don’t know anything about certain subjects, that my ability isn’t as good as the males despite the fact that actually there are certain skills I have and they don’t.
My last job I self-produced my whole show, and I was in the building completely on my own, video editing and everything. A lot of those skills some of the guys I work with don’t have, but yet sometimes I’m made to feel that I am worse at my job than them. And also little things like when my co-presenter is away I have to have a another male come on the radio with me, whereas when I’m away it’s acceptable for him to do the show on his own, and again I put that down to being female.
The nature of the show that I do, will be that the guy is the anchor and he drives the desk, even though I am more than cable of driving a desk and I will just be the co-presenter.
I try in my job to fight against that stereotype of a female co-presenter that are just made to sound giggly and stupid. I’m trying to move away from talking about my love life all the time, because that seems to be all that anyone is interested in, and whoever is producing us encourages that I talk about those topics, whereas it’s different for the male presenter.’ (Real-Davies, E 2016. figure 4)
Real-Davies also states that there is a gender pay gap between her and her male counterpart admitting she gets paid ‘much less’ than him. However, disagreeing with Real-Davies is Zoe Hanson. Where some people might think there is a gender pay gap and women are not driving radio shows due to sexism, Hanson states the reason as to why this might be is ‘money wise, it’s probably down to experience more than your gender’ (figure 3).
Furthermore, Hanson doesn’t completely dismiss that there has never been sexism in the broadcast industry but, she personally has never felt victimised whilst working in the industry however, she agrees men tend to drive the shows:
‘The female is very often seen and will be called the co-host and traditionally if you have a breakfast show and it’s a guy and a girl, the guy will, be the one that is on air 70% of the time, maybe 60/40 but it’s very different in our show because it is very much 50/50.’ (Figure 3)
The final theories I am going to discuss is the ‘fantasy’ theory and the ‘cultural issue’ which are essentially the same theory but with different stances. These theories can be summed up as simply as people don’t like hearing women on the radio. Tacchi (2000) describes the fantasy theory which is work carried out by Hobson (1980) as:
‘Women radio listeners [who are] ‘isolated’, seeking the company of the male disc jockeys about whom they had sexual fantasies. In turn the DJs play on this perception of lonely housewives and take on the role of sexual fantasy-figure.’ (Tacchi, J 2000: p152)
However, Tacchi (2000) also argues that in a study carried out in relation to the fantasy theory it was found that after studying one female respondent that she:
‘Displayed the obvious, almost stereotypical qualities and behaviours of the female listener having an affair with her radio station…however, that she in fact was using radio to reinforce and maintain her own identity as an individual who is serious about music.’ (Tacchi, J 2000: p153)
Holdsworth (2014) who discussed childcare and the technical side of radio previously in this chapter questions another reason as to why we may have sexism in the broadcast industry stating ‘you’ve probably heard the rumour, that circles every now and then, that people don’t like to hear other women on the radio’. His theory as to why is different to the fantasy theory, he believes:
‘it could have originated from a “rather obscure” newspaper in America in the 1930s, which peddled the myth and gave no evidence for it.’ (Holdsworth, D 2014. Quoted by Peacock, L 2014)
To conclude this chapter, even in more recent years we can still find cases of sexism in the broadcast industry. The five theories discussed can explain the reasons behind whether we had, or still do have sexism in the industry. Whilst researching these theories, the theory behind childcare and maternity seemed to be the most popular. But, although all these theories relate directly to the broadcast industry, these are theories that can relate to a wider issue of gender inequality in the workplace.
Chapter three. Case study one. The social impact of the radio programme Woman’s Hour.
This chapter investigates the radio programme Women’s Hour, and looks closely at the discussions by Sally Feldman (2000) and Olive Shapely (2000) who worked on Women’s Hour. Women’s Hour to the present day is presented by Jane Garvey and Jeni Murray. The show is aired on BBC Radio 4 weekdays 10-11am and on Saturdays 4-5pm. The show simply put is a show aimed at women, current affairs, issues women face, hobbies and employment are some of the topics Women’s Hour discuses. It is an important radio programme not just for gender equality, but it help shaped the way some radio shows are today. For example According to Feldman (2000: p67) Women’s Hour ‘was one of the earliest programmes to address its listeners intimately and directly and to respond to their questions and needs’ and was the first radio station to mention homosexuality and prostitution.
Prior to this, the programme Women’s Hour was first broadcasted back in 1946 between 2-3pm which Shapely (2000: p36) stated that the ‘timeslot was considered just right, after morning chores and lunch and while doing the washing-up before older children came home from school’ and was first presented by a male. Relating back to chapter one regarding the history of gender inequality in radio, Women’s Hour was first a programme for women however, was a programme promoting housebound topics. Although this was the case, presenters like Shapely over the years have pushed equality for women by carefully choosing the content of their show. For example Shapely explains in the 1950s her and her team pushed boundaries with their ‘Guest of the Week’, and by discussing controversial topics on the show like medical, sexual, psychology and human relationships:
‘We invited women who had made a name for themselves in some field or other, and of course forty years ago publicly successful women shone even more brightly in the firmament than they do now because there were even fewer of them… Women’s Hour has never been afraid to tackle difficult topics and I am proud of my own role over the years in helping to push back the frontiers of broadcasting acceptability.’ (Shapely, O 2000: p38)
During this time although Women were being addressed, they weren’t addressing topics in a way of positive feminism and politics. Feldman (2000) states that:
‘Presenters didn’t talk much about themselves, and objectivity was the norm. Also, to identify with the feminist movement would have been foreign to the majority of producers at the time.’ (Feldman, S 2000: p65)
Although the BBC may have been seen to be a place with few women, it has actually been said by Feldman (2000) that in fact it was one of the first organisations that gave women career opportunities. However, these women who thought they were lucky enough to start a career in the BBC, sexist norms and values towards women were in place in the broadcast industry and other industries, especially when it came to childcare:
‘In the1950s it was still expected that a woman would give up work when she got married, and that you had to choose between career and motherhood.’ (Feldman, S 2000: p65)
These norms where thrown out in 1982 when a woman named Sandra Chalmers became editor. According to Feldman:
‘She brought with her a refreshing warmth and modernity. A single mother herself… she was sympathetic to the needs of producer mothers like myself, but also wished to inject a chattier, friendlier tone… I never really planned to make the programme a mouthpiece for feminism or any other ideology, though we were much less afraid than our predecessors to acknowledge this constituency in our audience.’ (Feldman, S 2000: p65)
Although a programme that promotes women, it also has male listeners which is important to the equality of women as this means men they are supporting women and the issues they face. The programme often features male guests speaking about women’s issues. This isn’t necessarily the reason why Women’s Hour also has male listeners however, we do know that this could be a marketing tool that gains male listeners, Feldman (2000) claims that ‘by putting out packages of male voices praising the programme, we were signifying to men that they were welcome.’ Feldman also has a few other theories that could had led to the rise of the male listenership (which rose from 28 per cent to 33 per cent):
‘But [it] probably it had more to do with the passing morning radio trade of truck drivers and travelling salesmen, redundant BBC producers and stay-at-home fathers who were beginning to make up the much-touted changing demographics.’ (Feldman, S 2000: p70-71)
But where does the radio programme stand over the past five years? We know that there is still a lack of female presenters representing radio stations but that representation is knowingly better than a few decades ago. Is Women’s Hour still significant in promoting gender equality? It could be argued than it’s more important than ever, and if anything is dealing with the promotion of women in a better way by steering away from domestic household stereotypes and discussing issues in a mature manner that reflects our opinion of women to be taken seriously:
‘Woman’s Hour, still in the capable hands of Jane Garvey and Jenni Murray, has covered the kind of topics that you would find in a serious newspaper rather than a woman’s magazine, from discussions about domestic violence, infertility and the rising problem of malnourished children in the UK to female reggae artists and the best way to help friends when they are seriously ill.’ (Sturges, F 2012)
Chapter four. Case study two. Annie Nightingale: Radio 1’s first female presenter.
This chapter investigates gender inequality in the 1970s, examining when BBC Radio 1 appointed its first female presenter – Annie Nightingale.
Through the decades of radio there is one important figure that paved the way for the past, present and future Radio DJs and that figure is Annie Nightingale. Nightingale was allowed her first radio broadcast on Radio 1 in 1971, she was the first female presenter on the station and to the present day she is still a part of the presenting team at
At first Nightingale was unsuccessful in achieving her dreams of being a presenter on BBC Radio 1. This was surprising as she comes from a background of journalism and television presenting which are transferable skills to the radio industry:
‘Seriously. I tried, and I tried and I tried, and found that for me the doors to Radio 1 were locked, bolted, barred, chained and shored up from within…But ‘why?’ I asked anyone connected to this Sanctuary of Sexism whom I could get to speak to… I have proved I could hold my own as a news reporter, feature writer, TV presenter; I had proved myself as a capable radio journalist on other networks of the BBC. Why did getting a job as a Radio 1 DJ seem to require me also to own a dick?’ (Nightingale, A 1999: p73)
So why was it so hard for Nightingale to become a presenter at Radio 1? She claims one of the reasons is that:
‘They said that disc jockeys were husband substitutes, so they didn’t need any women. They also believed women’s voices didn’t have enough authority to be on the radio.’ (Annie Nightingale 2015. quoted by Elan, P 2015)
To come to terms with the attitudes of the BBC that women like Nightingale faced, we can look at Nightingale’s claim of a story she heard regarding management and producers discriminating against aspiring female DJs:
‘I’ve heard quite horrifying stories of senior producers launching their own private dinner-party entertainment by playing their guests audition tapes sent in by would-be female DJs. The tapes were rumoured to be of such a pathetic, unprofessional nature that they would be guaranteed to reduce the entire party to uncontrollable laughter.’ (Nightingale, A 1999: p72-73)
As society’s views on equality for women slowly grew more positive, the BBC were being pressured into changing their views about female presenters. Prior to this, Nightingale had become close friends with The Beatles publicist Derek Taylor whom was informed that BBC Radio 1 was looking for a female presenter. BBC Radio 1 approached Nightingale to presenter her own show, however, she unfortunately still faced sexism when she arrived at the BBC:
‘The early gigs I did, you turn up to DJ and they go “here’s a mic love, you don’t need to play anything”, “but I brought my records?” “oh no we’ll do that, we’ll play the records, you just talk in the mic” and be Mrs Wet t-shirt scenarios!’ (Nightingale, A 2013)
Because of this distressing attitude towards Nightingale, she experienced a gender pay-gap between herself and her male colleges:
‘The boys on Radio 1 all seemed to be earning far more than I was, by doing several public appearances a week. Let us say that I did not take easily to the club world during the seventies.’ (Nightingale, A 1999: p92)
Although Nightingale working as a presenter at the BBC seemed like a big step for equality, no woman was able to follow in her footsteps for another 12 years. Many presenters have praised Annie Nightingale for inspiring other female presenters. BBC 6 Music’s Lauren Laverne (2015) praises Nightingale claiming ‘none of us female DJs would be here without her, because she opened the doors’.
Referring back to chapter two asking the question why gender inequality in the broadcast industry exists, there is evidence from Nightingale’s life that gives evidence to two of those theories, those theories are the technical issue and childcare.
As explained in chapter two the technical issue describes women who either; haven’t been taught how to use the technical equipment required to produce radio shows or they aren’t trusted to work with the technical equipment. Nightingale (1999: p78-79) claims that all the technical talk was ‘intimidating’. She continues stating she ‘felt perfectly content talking into the microphone, but not operating a five-foot-wide piece of technology.’
We could look at Nightingale’s opinion on the technical side of radio and simply assume that this is because Nightingale, or women for that matter are disinterested in learning how to operate a radio desk. However, looking at the issue in more depth we can find that the process is indeed ‘intimidating’ for women, but this not because of the lack of interest, but in fact because of sexism:
‘Some of the engineers were even more sexist than the male DJs. I was given a crash course in operating the desk, and then felt too intimidated ever to ask again how any particular piece of equipment worked.’ (Nightingale, A 1999: p78-79)
The second theory relating to why gender inequality exists I’m going to discuss in this chapter is childcare. Nightingale had children at a young age and has addressed the fact that women and having children can be an issue when securing work:
‘If I hadn’t started having children at a young age, I would have found myself in the predicament that so many women have encountered since, particularly in the eighties and nineties, where they are well into a career, reach thirty-five, and find the biological clock ticking away and become desperate to have children.’ (Nightingale, A 1999: p32)
But can having children whilst in employment work? In chapter two Zoe Hanson discusses in the present, businesses are fairer to women in employment looking to have children. Decades before this it wasn’t so simple, Nightingale found becoming a freelancer helped her raise children and work:
‘I did however, go freelance, which enabled me to keep on working. The only real difficulties were in my head – I was self-conscious with friends, thinking they’d find it all very boring.’ (Nightingale, a 1999: p32)
For an era of socially unfair views on women presenters, Annie Nightingale proved that with much determination and confidence women can succeed in the broadcast industry, though unfortunately some will have go through those sexist views of the industry and the public. But, for a woman who tolerated a lot at BBC Radio 1 what are her views on the station now? Nightingale claims:
‘I have to give Radio 1 a hats off here. Now we have many female DJ’s, it’s not old news anymore and that’s how it should be… I think that balance is right. I think you’ve got to be there because you’re good at your job, not for quota… And you know there’s a lot of blokes who wanted to be on Radio 1 and they couldn’t because they got the wrong voice or the wrong personality or whatever, so I don’t think it should be gender specific.’ (Nightingale, A 2015)
Chapter five. Case study three. The transition from Xfm to Radio X.
This chapter investigates whether the commercial radio station Xfm’s re-brand to Radio X can be seen as a sexist move by the Global owned radio station by analysing the opinions of those working in the broadcast industry.
Xfm was founded in 1992 by Chris Parry and Sammy Jacob and promotes alternative, indie and rock orientated music. Global radio brought the station in 1998 and still run the station to the present day. On 21st September 2015 Radio X hit our airwaves with a new schedule and an additional line-up of male presenters including Chris Moyles, Ricky Wilson, Vernon Kay and Johnny Vaughan during prime-time hours pushing previous female presenters like Jo Good into off-peak listening hours.
The transition may have not been perceived as sexist and may not have sparked so much debate and outrage if it wasn’t for the company explicitly marketing the re-brand as ‘the first truly male-focused, fully national music and entertainment brand for 25-44 year olds.’ (The Guardian 2015)
Some argue this male-based transition is sexist, whilst others defend the station. Chris Moyles who was once the breakfast presenter at BBC Radio 1, is now the breakfast presenter on Radio X. Moyles defends the station over claims of sexism and even goes as far as mimicking the rumours by playing Girls Aloud – ‘Love Machine’ as the first song on his first ever broadcast, and when discussing whether the station is just for men he claims:
‘I’ll tell you now, this is news to me and everyone on this show… so let me be the first of many Radio X DJs to say this over the next days. That’s a load of balls… everybody is welcome to this radio station. Everybody is certainly welcome to this show.’ (Moyles, C 2015. Quoted by Goodacre, K)
He later bluntly adds that people need to ‘calm down.’ Agreeing with Moyles is Edith Bowman, claiming that the station asked her to present on the newly branded station:
‘I’ve got experience of that being absolutely ridiculous… I don’t think anybody’s got that mentality.’ Adding ‘I’m sure that over time as well we’ll see more women being part of that schedule. I think that was something that was said in a meeting as a bit of a joke and taken out of context because I don’t think anybody’s got that mentality.’ (Edith Bowman 2015. Quoted by Nissim, M)
When I spoke with Zoe Hanson (2016), a previous Capital FM breakfast presenter with Johnny Vaughan, she states ‘I think it gets them the right publicity.’ (figure 3)
There is evidence that this statement is true. The transition from Xfm to Radio X has benefited from the change by increasing its weekly listening reach from 1,049,000 (RAJAR Q3 2015) to 1,225,000 (RAJAR Q4 2015), although these figures also show that the female audience has decreased from 42% (RAJAR Q3 2015) to 39% (RAJAR Q4 2015).
On the other side of the argument is Ruth Barnes, a presenter at Amazing Radio and organiser for the all-female live show Find the Female Headliner. She doesn’t agree the transition is positive for women in the broadcast industry:
‘For them to say we are just for men now, to say to 50% of their audience, oh we aren’t broadcasting to you is a bit ridiculous. It just seems like a huge step backwards… it sounds like something that would have happened in 1992.’ (Barnes, R 2015. Figure 5)
Similarly, Emma Jo Real-Davies (2016) makes a point that the broadcast industry is already dominated by men, so why isn’t the industry trying to move forward with views of gender equality?
‘To launch a station with the tagline male dominated station, I just thought it was completely ironic because most stations are male dominated. I can understand what they are doing, but it would have been a better trick to have a female-dominated station. When they launched there was no mention of any of the females that were going to be on at certain times, there was no credit to them.’ (Real-Davies 2015. Figure 4)
Concluding, could there be a link here to different generations and their norms and values. For example Moyles and Bowman, both aged 42 are from an older generation, compared to Real-Davies (age 23) who are from a younger generation. The younger generation have been taught different social views and values growing up in a time in which society can be seen as more favourable to women.
We could see the opinion of Bowman being a bit naïve to the subject. She states: ‘I think that was something that was said in a meeting as a bit of a joke and taken out of context’, but yet this point is invalid as it is a fact that the term ‘male-biased’ was used downright to promote the station. We could also argue that Moyles reaction was insensitive to the subject, again this could be due to outdated views on gender inequality. However, this generation theory can be can be reversed in favour of Radio X. For example when asked if people have taken the radio transition in the wrong way, Hanson replied: ‘If anybody does then they are a bit sensitive to it’. (Hanson, Z 2015. Figure 3)
Chapter six. What has, and is being done to tackle gender inequality in the broadcast industry, how are we progressing and what does the future hold for females?
With examples, this chapter investigates the various individuals, groups, organisations and the radio stations themselves that have tackled the issue of gender inequality in the broadcast industry and how we are progressing. Furthermore, what does the future hold for the next generation of females in the broadcast industry?
In chapter one the history of gender inequality in the broadcast industry I discussed women’s activist groups in favour of promoting equality for women, those include Mileva Ross (1977) and her work with Women in Media who addressed issues with the radio industry’s values towards women, WAW (1979), the work of Anne Krapf (1980), and as mentioned in the introduction an example of more recent work is that done by Sound Women (2013). Although these organisations and individuals do much work to bring these issues to light, it is the radio stations themselves who need to make changes.
Although there are still examples of sexism in the broadcast industry it is now more recognised than ever and there are more and more people progressively trying to address this issue. One example of this work is another organisation set up to help gender equality, which is Women’s Equality Network set up by Miriam O’Reilly, a Countryfile presenter who sued the BBC and won over claims of ageism and sexism set up the group to help women gain confidence to stand up to sexism. According to Jonathan Wynne-Jones (2012) as up to 30 women prepared to sue over claims of sexism and ageism. Although the claims seem like a step back for women, the women now coming forward shows progression that women are gaining the confidence to stand up against sexism. Camila Palmer (2012) O’Reilly’s lawyer says:
‘They’re going from feeling trapped by a culture of fear to feeling empowered by Miriam’s victory to speak out… In the future they will be respected for championing the challenge to the current culture at the BBC, which is Dickensian in the way women are second-class citizens… This kind of sexism is inherent within the BBC and it’s about time something was done to change this culture.’ (Palmer, C 2012. Quoted by Wynne-Jones, J 2012)
Another example comes from BBC boss Lord Tony Hall and the pledge he made in August 2013 to make it a priority for the organisation to have more women presenting on local BBC radio breakfast programmes. When Hall made the pledge, there was only 20% of breakfast shows on BBC local radio with a woman presenting and that figure was represented by two women – Liz Green and Alina Jenkins.
What did he do to tackle this issue? He and his co-workers organised three training days entitled ‘women in radio’, which where hosted in London, Salford and Birmingham. The idea behind the courses was to give opportunities to women who wanted to work in radio but maybe never had the opportunity. According to Louise Peacock (2014) ‘there were over 1,000 applications’, which reinsures the fact that there are plenty of women who want to work in the broadcast industry and around 90 of those women were awarded places on the Women in Radio training courses, which in turn gave them a better insight and better opportunities to work in the broadcast industry.
But has the scheme worked? An example of a successful applicant is Lilley Mitchell. Mitchell, who now reports for local station BBC Oxford comments on how the Women in Radio courses helped her get into the industry:
‘It wasn’t until the course that I got the confidence to say I want to be a presenter. Women all have an inner confidence, we know we can do things, but we may need a bit of inner nudging to actually do them.’ (Mitchell, L 2014. Quoted by Peacock, L 2014)
Referring back to Hall’s promise to get more women presenters hosting breakfast shows, Peacock (2014) states that: ‘As of April 2014 – the latest figures available – some 32 per cent of breakfast shows now have female presenters.’ Breaking that figure down, five more women joined BBC local breakfast when looking back at April 2014. Although slow progress to his promise, Hall explains the slow but reassuring progress:
‘Part of the work we’re doing now is to address the overall issue [of the lack of women presenting radio]. But it takes quite a long time to adjust to an issue like this, people have long careers in broadcasting. We need to recruit outside to address this issue.’ (Hall, T 2014. Quoted by Peacock 2014)
To answer yes and give evidence to answer the question are we progressing? We can look at the popular radio station BBC Radio 1 which according to RAJAR’s 2015 fourth quarter reaches 10,330,000 of population per week (figure 2). In 2015 BBC Radio 1 saw a change of schedule with the departure of Zane Lowe and Fearne Cotton, with Clara Amfo replacing Cotton and Annie Mac replacing Zane Lowe’s specialist show. Factually, according to RAJAR (2015) the station gained 737,000 listeners in the quarter changes were made, proving that strong female presenters do indeed bring listeners to radio stations, and it also proves that society is progressing in welcoming female presenters.
Furthermore, the first female presenter at Radio 1 Nightingale comments on Radio 1 and its women presenters:
‘I have to give Radio 1 a hats off here. Now we have many female DJ’s, it’s not old news anymore and that’s how it should be. I think you’ve got to be there because your good at your job, not for quota, now I don’t want to be there because I ticked some box, I feel I should be there because I can do the job properly. And you know there’s a lot of blokes who wanted to be on Radio 1 and they couldn’t because they got the wrong voice or the wrong personality or whatever, so I don’t think it should be gender specific.’ (Nightingale, A 2015)
However, although there is evidence that we have progressed positively, there is also evidence of no progression on behalf of some stations. For example looking back at case study number three we have determined Radio X is insensitive to letting females be the face of their station. But, shockingly more recently a re-launch of a station named talkRADIO started airing on the 21st March 2016 with a rare sight of females on the schedule. Between the hours of 06:00 and 22:00, only one woman (Julia Hartley-Brewer) appears on the talkRADIO schedule. The male dominated station also had an example of sexism on the first day of broadcasting on air. Fiona Sturges (2016) points out that talkRADIO’s breakfast presenter Paul Ross made a sexist comment regarding Michele Dotrice claiming that ‘she’s carrying some timber… She’s a shed on legs’, and that wasn’t the only sexist comment he made, he also stated another female, Penny Smith was ‘stocky…solid…The hour-glass figure…The sand has slipped to the bottom there.’ In chapter two when looking at a similar sexist comment Nick Grimshaw made, we have already determined by the reaction of Davies-Arai (2013) that it is inappropriate to make a comment about a women’s looks on air, or in any type of employment.
It is because of the past and current individuals and groups who defend women’s rights and challenge these pre-existing norms and values like that of talkRADIO. But, it’s because of these women that other women now have more a chance now than ever to become radio presenters and this is why stations are taking action. The future seems increasingly positive for females. As there becomes more successful and more positive role models for women in the broadcast industry, there is an increase in women who are interested in radio and that is why according to Currie (2000: p206) ‘Women currently outnumber men in some radio journalism courses in Higher Education’, and it is these women who will be the next generation to influence the broadcast industry.
In this final section of the essay I will briefly recap each chapter whilst providing my opinion and overall analysing whether we can determine whether there has been or that there still is gender inequality in the broadcast industry.
I think it is important to note the importance of the chapter history of gender inequality in the broadcast industry as even though radio didn’t exist until the 1900’s, we can determine where the issue of gender inequality originates from and that it existed before the broadcast industry and the fact it can be identified in the broadcast industry gives evidence that gender inequality is an much wider problem in society that originates from pre-existing norms and values. Further on in chapter one I discuss gender inequality through a brief timeline, these examples for instance radio dedicated to housewives in the 1920’s give evidence to give the answer yes, we can determine that there has been gender inequality in the broadcast industry, and this history is also discussed in the first case study regarding the social impact of the radio programme Women’s Hour, which although a programme that promotes women, the programme still struggled with identifying itself.
Also giving evidence to whether there has been gender inequality in the broadcast industry is chapter four and looking at the importance of the milestone that Annie Nightingale created being appointed the first female presenter at Radio 1. Her stories confirm that sexism existed in the broadcast industry in the 1970’s although she broke into the industry.
When giving evidence of sexist incidents in the broadcast industry in the past five years in chapter two, from examples we can instantly determine that there definitely is gender inequality in the broadcast industry to the present day. Not just over the past five years but even more recently in the past year with case study three Radio X, which is discussed in chapter five. My conversation with Emma Jo Real-Davis seen in chapter two and talkRADIO which unbelievably only launched in March 2016 is discussed in chapter six with a vacant schedule for women.
But why do we have these cases of gender inequality in the broadcast industry? Chapter two underlines the five theories of childcare and maternity leave, the genre of a station or show, the technical issue, the natural women’s voice, the ‘fantasy’ theory or ‘cultural issue’, and each of these theories have evidence of their importance when analysing the question why does gender inequality exist in the broadcast industry.
We can only hope that the next generation of women interested in radio are treated more fairly in the broadcast industry and are given far more opportunities than the women who tried before them. Hopefully with continuous support from the groups and individuals like those discussed in chapter six, what has, and is being done to tackle gender inequality in the broadcast industry, who fight for women’s deserved rights, then in the future we can see an increase in the amount of strong positive female role models for aspiring radio presenters. It might be a slow progression but as society becomes more aware of the issues women face in the workplace, hopefully one day we will eventually see the statistic change from 1 in 8 voices during peak-time breakfast and drive hours being female, to 4 in 8 voices during these hours being female:
‘Women who enter the industry in the twenty-first century can expect a much wider range of jobs in comparison to the BBC that their sisters worked in, and will require very different knowledge and skills…Women have made their mark in all area of radio and where once excluded they are now making inroads (although there are unfortunately still some dinosaurs around who believe women and the technical side of radio do not mix)… Women and men with young families or other caring responsibilities still have to fight to maintain a balance of radio work and the rest of their lives. However the future for women in radio is bright – which can only be good for women – and radio.’ (Mitchell, C 2000: p206-207)
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