Friday, 17 August 2018
The G6+1
08 Jun

Women in media. After my recent column about the shortage of female voices in the media, I heard a fascinating story about the BBC. Ros Atkins, a host there, and Rebecca Bailey, an editor, came up with a policy called 50:50 in 2016 to increase the number of women on a show called “Outside Sources.”

The rule essentially said that 50 percent of all experts appearing on the show should be women. (It exempted subjects of news stories, like members of Parliament, because the show needs to cover the news. It also exempted hosts, because network executives — rather than the show’s producers — choose hosts.)

When the project started, 39 percent of the show’s guests were women, as Atkins wrote for HuffPost. Within three months, the percentage was up to 51 percent. It has remained just over 50 percent since.

The project has also expanded to other BBC shows. “We’re now up to 125 BBC programmes and digital teams and it’s expanding every week,” Atkins wrote to me in an email.

Hard-and-fast rules can have downsides. But I like what the BBC has done. Its rule sets a clear standard — one that doesn’t let the show’s producers get away with making excuses about how hard they’re trying to book women on their show. But the rule also acknowledges that a news show can’t completely control the gender mix of its subjects. Atkins says he welcomes hearing from others interested in trying a version of 50:50. He’s on Twitter, @BBCRosAtkins.


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