23 Feb 2012

Where have all the women gone?

Last night the TV news and current affairs establishment was on parade at London’s Hilton Hotel. The “brightest and the best” gathered in the shadow of Marie Colvin’s death for the Royal Television Society’s awards ceremony. She was very present in the room, many of us haunted by the reality that ‘there but for the grace of god, could we have gone’. Few of us could ever have matched her courage, but chance is an indiscriminate godfather, when it comes to death in the field of conflict.

When I gaze across our newsroom, I see a reasonable cross-section of the society in which I live. Our “product” is as dependent upon male staff as it is upon female. The burden of hard graft is carried at least as much by women as men – it may be thinner the higher up the managerial food change you look, but where the work gets done there is pretty even burden sharing.

To see the stage at last night’s RTS Awards presented a very different picture. Of roughly a dozen categories in which there was effectively a “team award”, no fewer than five of the winning teams managed to sport a winning tableau entirely made up of white men.

UTV and BBC Panorama were noteworthy in their failure to find a single woman who had made any contribution to their accolade. On five separate occasions, there appeared no self-consciousness that there were no women on the stage. The team from Calendar -Yorkshire TV’s evening news programme –  nicely reflected a more mixed reality – both men and women were recognised in their win. It was also good on such a night to see Sky’s Alex Crawford recognised again for her reporting. And great to see male anchors knocked off their perches by Anna Botting, also of Sky, who won presenter of the year. But alas, these worthy swallows do not a spring make.

Forget any spring; when I looked around the vast room in which perhaps 800 were gathered, you’ve got it – far more men than women; and very few ethnic minorities.

If the RTS event last night represented a genuine reflection of television news and current affairs in the UK today, it is a worrying story. The standards were high, but the relationship to the makeup of 21st Century Britain was woefully out of line.

I’m not one for quotas, but it is hard to escape the conclusion that our industry is anachronistically male dominated, and if our job is to reflect the world we live in, then those making the decisions about what ends up on our screens do not reflect the make up of that world.

I should mention the very best moment in all this. When Al Jazeera English won the second of their richly deserved Awards, this Arab-funded Channel, swamped the stage with women managers and workers – SIX women, and just THREE men!

Follow @jonsnowC4 on Twitter.

Read more: RTS television awards hat-trick for Channel 4 News



Tweets by @jonsnowC4