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Aidan White

Published: 27 February 2013

Country: UK

by Aidan White

radio 4 presentersAspects of how women are marginalised in media – old and new – have been highlighted on both sides of the Atlantic.

Harriet Harman, the combative deputy leader of the Labour opposition party and a veteran campaigner for women’s rights, has hit out at age discrimination against women in British media.

As the shadow minister for culture she has put major news media on the spot with a written demand to seven broadcast chiefs to give full details of how many women of 50 and over are employed as newsreaders, presenters and reporters.

At the same time in the United States the Women’s Media Center has released its 2013 report on the Status of Women in the US Media which finds that online media, far from offering more opportunities for women to play a role in journalism, is behaving just as badly as legacy media. When it comes to the profile and visibility of women in media they still come a distant second with men dominating bylines and stories.

Both events reveal how a continuing failure to deliver anything close to equality of treatment for women in the news business remains a major challenge at home and abroad.

 

Harman admits that younger women in broadcasting are "blazing trails" but she says they "meet an untimely end" as soon as they reach 50. The impact of this combination of ageism and sexism will be published later this year in the findings of an audit carried out by Labour's Commission on Older Women.

 

The report will underline the concerns that led to the high-profile complaints of discrimination against older women on television including the high-profile case of television presenter Miriam O'Reilly, who won an employment tribunal against the BBC after she was dropped.

Harman says that the BBC and other major broadcasters should be "named and shamed" for not putting older female presenters on screen. She says older women who reach 50 find themselves withdrawn from roles as newsreaders, presenters and reporters.

Her complaint of a “real old-fashioned culture in broadcasting” where men remain in broadcasting as they grow older, but women have their careers cut short.

This culture is alive and well even in the new media says the report from the Women’s Media Center in the United States.  Pure online sites, the report says, “have fallen into the same rut as legacy media. Male bylines outnumbered female bylines at four of six sites reviewed.”

Men’s bylines outnumbered women’s by a “nearly 3 to 1 margin’ in media coverage of the presidential campaign in which Barack Obama reclaimed the White House.

The study found that men are also far more likely to be quoted than women in newspapers, television and public radio. Even in death women lose out according to the report. Obituaries of men “far outnumber those of women in top national and regional newspapers.”

In all of this it is a struggle to find a hopeful sign, but there is one. “The percentage of women who are television news directors edged up, reaching 30 percent for the first time,” says the report. However, there’s still a long way to go; in both Britain and the US women continue to make up 51 percent of the population.


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