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By Tim Montgomerie
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The BBC has often scrutinised the Conservative Party and its once male-dominated candidates list but how women-friendly is Auntie herself? Nadine Dorries used an adjournment debate on Monday night to expose the BBC's do-as-we-say-not-as-we-do attitude. Pasted below are some highlights from her speech.
BBC Radio 2 doesn't have one female presenter during daytime broadcasting: "The most listened-to music radio station in the world has not a single female daytime broadcaster. Is that not shameful? Radio 1 has one daytime female presenter. However, Radio 2 has “Sally Traffic”, whose job seems to be moving in and out of one studio after another to massage the egos of the male presenters who are there throughout the day. Although she outstrips most of the presenters in wit and rapport, I imagine that she earns a fraction of what the male egos that she massages do. Sally appears far more intellectual and witty than every male broadcaster whom she has to humour. However, the BBC bosses, whoever they may be, appear not to have noticed that."
The Today programme can lack a female voice for two hours: "The “Today” programme on Radio 4 has 7 million listeners a day. Many of them are influential and decision makers. Yet only 16% of the voices heard on the “Today” programme—comprising both contributors and presenters—are women’s. As Jane Martinson states on the women’s blog, and as others have pointed out, if the female presenter is away from the presenting team, one can go two whole hours in the morning when listening to the “Today” programme without a single female voice, and have male voices speaking at you throughout all that time."
Men dominate the BBC's current affairs line-up: "Let us forgive Andrew Marr’s line-up of the best 20 political moments of 2011, and the fact that each and every politician was male. Let us not include David Dimbleby or Jeremy Paxman or Jeremy Vine; let us give them an exemption, because all three are undeniable experts and silos of historical political knowledge, and considered to be more national treasures than presenters. I will do a quick round-up of the men who present TV news and current affairs: Robinson, Naughtie, Webb, Campbell, Marr, Craven, Davis, Snow, Stewart, Murnaghan, Boulton, Sopel, Mair, Simpson, Mason, Pienaar, Stourton, Portillo, Esler, Edwards, Matt Frei, Murphy, Austin, Gibbon, Crick, Thompson and Islam. That is just the top layer of news and current affairs. I challenge any hon. Member to start a list of women. They would get stuck at three names."
Read her full speech here.
Culture minister Ed Vaizey replied to Ms Dorries and immediately conceded that she had a point, particularly about the Today programme:
"Some 84% of reporters and guests on Radio 4’s “Today” programme are men. Indeed, on 5 July 2011, one would have had to wait from 6.15 am until 8.20 am to hear one female contributor, alongside the 27 male contributors to that programme. My hon. Friend therefore raises an important point."
He did, however, say that the BBC had a good record of employing women overall:
"My hon. Friend and the hon. Lady have both, quite rightly, highlighted the imbalance that exists in broadcasting, but it is worth pointing out that 50% of BBC Trust members are women. The proportion of females on the BBC executive board is only 42%, but that is still a far higher proportion than is found on the majority of corporate boards. Within the whole staff of the BBC, women make up 49% of the total, and more women are joining the organisation than men at the moment."
Mr Vaizey ended by offering to set up a meeting for Ms Dorries and other interested MPs with the BBC's DG, Mark Thompson. I'd like to be a fly on the wall during that encounter.