27 Feb 2012

Our pledge to put more women experts on your screen

At Channel 4 News we think the experts we speak to should be as surprising and refreshing as our journalism, which is why we are signing up to Broadcast’s “Expert Women” campaign.

Our pledge to put more women experts on your screen.

At Channel 4 News, we set ourselves some pretty lofty goals. Yes, we must help fulfil Channel 4’s public service commitment. And of course we must work within Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code, and our own compliance framework. But more than that. We don’t just want our journalism to inform, although it must. We want it to challenge and surprise.

So, sometimes, when we host a debate on the programme that comprises three or four white middle aged men, it is with a heavy heart. Because that line-up isn’t “surprising”. They might be excellent, competent, engaging speakers. But unless the debate is about white middle aged men, they aren’tnecessarily reflective of who the topic might effect.

And that is why we are happy to sign Broadcast’s pledge to focus on the male-female ratio of experts we feature on the programme.

It is a good ambition, and it fits with our wider commitment to find new experts, new commentators, new studio guests. It is a big focus for us this year.
Channel 4 News has a special commitment to diversity – it’s part of Channel 4’s remit. And we have an excellent record of finding and supporting journalists from different backgrounds in our onscreen line-up. We were the first programme to have a female political editor. We remain the only broadcaster with a female international editor.

We want this forward-thinking approach to apply to those who appear in our studio, to explain, to debate, to comment.

Why are so few spokespeople for organisations women?

Of course, the challenges are obvious. We can’t directly influence the upper echelons of business, politics and economics where women are still under-represented, and we would do our viewers a disservice if we started to neglect the importance of expertise and experience because we were too focused on gender. We will not turn down an interview with the relevant cabinet minister because he is a man. And in striving for more women, we must not neglect our other commitments; to racial diversity, and to commentators of varying age.

But we can think about some of the other questions. Why do women, on the whole feel less confident about debating a polemic point? Why are women less likely, from anecdotal guestbooker evidence, to consider themselves “experts” on a topic? And why are so few spokespeople for organisations women? We want to work with Broadcast to explore some of these issues and help however we can.

Channel 4 is a natural home for the new face, the unharnessed talent, the voice that disrupts your thinking and changes the way you see the world. Our news programme is the first port of call for challenging journalism that defies expectations. The experts we speak to should be as surprising and refreshing as that journalism, so we look forward to working with Broadcast on this important issue.