Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Here Is the News: It's a Boy's Job

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Here Is the News: It's a Boy's Job

Article excerpt

"I just can't think of a woman today who has the political hinterland of a Dimbleby or the gravitas. And to be the face and voice of a general election, you need both." The senior TV executive who told me this last week--he shall remain nameless--was unfortunately voicing an unpalatable truth. The fact is that, in British television, there is not a single woman with the political clout to hold down the BBC's election coverage, nor that of Sky or ITV. A century after women got the vote, they have not progressed enough to be seen as equals in commentating on democracy. Men still rule British TV, OK?

Well, no, not OK, actually, Why are virtually all the major news and political slots occupied by men? Is it that they are just better at the job of hard news? Is it an institutional bias against women? Or do we not take female presenters seriously when it comes to the big events?

The last suggestion is the one we would like to dismiss, but at least two other senior television executives have said exactly that to me--off the record, of course. It seems that in the UK, unlike in the US, we want strong women in the news, but in their place, and their place is not up front presenting it.

Do we, the public, really put greater faith in men? Part of the problem is the "beauty and the beast" mentality (with apologies to all handsome male presenters). From dawn to dusk, TV executives are still opting for the boy-meets-girl presenter combination: enter Dermot Murnaghan and Natasha Kaplinsky, the former on the back of a serious journalistic career, the latter on the strength of her dazzling cha-cha and equally blinding ambition. …

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