• Fri, Jan 27 2012

Does Radio Have A Gender Bias Against Women?

According to two news sources, two major radio networks, NPR and The BBC, have a bias against women. Really NPR? Really? Do you not know the definition of liberal? Reporter Eugenia Williamson found that NPR, arguably the most far-reaching book-review outlet in America, favors men. It featured or talked about male authors about 70% of the time.  Between August 1 and November 31, 2011, on the NPR shows Fresh Air, All Things Considered,Talk of the Nation, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition, and the WBUR shows On Point and Here and Now. Of the roughly 60 works of fiction discussed on NPR, only about 20 were written by women. Of the six novelists featured on more than one program, all but Amy Waldman, author of The Submission, were men. Of the three novelists interviewed on more than one program, all were men. Terry Gross interviewed twice as many male as female novelists, and Morning Edition apparently dedicated no coverage at all to women fiction writers.

Now Williamson had started this research to show support for the argument that big media outlets like The New York Times had a bias against female authors. This move by NPR certainly didn’t help that. Though some of the press said authors like Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult should quit whining because they were both commercial successes and didn’t need the kind of coverage that other, possibly male, authors need to get people to read their books. Of course, many of the male authors featured on NPR and in The Times are also best-sellers so that argument isn’t strong. I am not too worried about Jonathan Franzen having a roof over his head. His family dinners, yes, but not shelter. The argument that female writers are doing better than men is really quite impossible as Williamson found that that major publishers put out more books written by men than women. Print publications write more about books written by men. NPR discusses more books written by men. Unsurprisingly, the best seller list is dominated by books written by men: men outnumbered women 25 to 11 on last year’s number-one-best-seller fiction charts. Even if tabloid publications like People and Oprah’s magazine, O, cover more female authors, NPR has a bigger audience than both of them.

So not only are less women getting featured on the radio, but less women are working in radio. According to The Daily Telegraph, British Parliament member Tessa Munt found that on one of BBC’s top radio stations, there were no women with children who ranked higher than assistant producer. And on another top station, the DJs were 15%  female, a decrease from 16%  in 1987. Munt said “The problem is so significant because when you look at the amount of taxpayers’ money used to support the BBC, it is millions, and millions and millions. Gender shouldn’t make a blind bit of difference on the radio because how you look is utterly irrelevant. The balance between men and women is actually a systemic problem because exactly the same happens on the radio as it does on television. Radio presenters are very serious figures. They are in one of the most influential media because a lot of young people do not necessarily read the papers. They are hugely, hugely influential.”

Munt added that radio could be a great career for women because most shows are only two or three hours long and a lot of the preparation work can be done at home. “The best people available should be on the radio but I just do not believe that the best are all men. It would also be good for business, because the majority of the listening population is female.

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