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Research study finds that two in three voices on radio news and current affairs are male

Research study finds that two in three voices on radio news and current affairs are male

Women on Air, the not-for-profit group that aims to give female area experts skills and confidence to go on radio and television, today (7 August 2013) drew attention to the outcomes of new research on women’s representation in the media.

The research conducted earlier this year shows that only one third of voices on radio news and current affairs programmes are female.The studywas conducted over a one week period in February by Dr Jane Suiter of the School of Communications at DCU and Dr Anne O’Brien of NUI Maynooth. The main findings of the research study are that:

·         Overall33% of voices on airduring the study period were female although the figure fell to 26% for political shows.

·         In terms of experts: female representation is lower. Just 22% of expert voices were female - 26% of politicians and only 17% of VIP/celebrities.

·         In terms of programming the best shows for gender balance were Saturday with Claire Byrne (50%) and The Late Debate with Audrey Carville (40%) – both onRTE.

·         With 35% female representation, RTE’s Morning Ireland programme led the way for daily shows followed by RTE’s Drivetime at 32%, Newstalk’s Breakfast Show at 31% and Today FM’s The Last Word at 26% and The Right Hook at 25% respectively.

·         The most male-dominated shows were found to be Today FM’s Savage Sunday with only 20% women and the Sunday Show on Newstalk (also 20% women).

·         Middle-aged women were found to be under-represented with just 21% of all voices in the 50-64 age bracket being female.

·         In contrast 87% of teenage voices heard were female, with teenage boys being very under-represented also.

Dr Suiter, who is also Research Director of Women on Air, said: “Women are under-represented on air in Ireland and indeed around the world. Women, who make up 51% of the population, need to be part of these important conversations. The EU adopted greater representation of women in broadcasting as one of their 12 strategic goals in 1995 but 18 years later on TV and on radio the voices and faces, the thoughts and arguments tend to be more male. This is not good for society. But to understand the problem and to address it we need the evidence and that is what this research study was about.’’

“While this research is comprehensive it was limited to just one week in February 2013 and many things can skew coverage in a single week. This is particularly the case for some weekly shows where only one show will be included in the figures compared with say five weekday morning shows,’’ she added.

Dr Anne O’Brien said: “The fact that Claire Byrne and Audrey Carville’s shows can achieve parity calls into question the excuses proffered by others around the difficulty in sourcing willing women to go on the airwaves.’’

The research study was funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

This study follows earlier research by the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) which found that less than one quarter of voices in radio news and current affairs broadcasting are women.      

Caroline Erskine, chair of Women on Air, said:  “The current mobility of high-profile broadcasters offers a valuable opportunity to redress the gender imbalance on air. The presence of more women experts, too, in the media would present a more balanced picture of life and of women's contribution to society, which would have a positive impact on public policies and attitudes, in general.”


Notes to Editors: 

1.    About Women on Air

Women on Air is a not for profit group that helps give female area experts the skills and confidence to go on radio and television.  It takes practical steps to help improve female representation on the airwaves including providing a list for producers and researchers of hundreds of female area experts who are willing to go on radio and TV to contribute to the public discourse.


2.    About the Research Methodology

The methodology is adapted from Professor Karen Ross's study for the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE). The programmes were listened to and the category of person speaking was recorded, although not the amount of time they were given, which is an important next step.The coders listened to RTE, Newstalk and Today FM news and current affairs shows for a week. Of course a week is not necessarily representative but the numbers were very similar across various days of the week, giving some reassurance about the validity. It will be important however, to repeat the exercise over a longer time frame not only to increase the validity but also to track progress.

Further information:

Dr Jane Suiter, Research Director, Women on Air: jane.suiter@dcu.ie

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