The BBC: Blokes’ Broadcasting Corporation
9th May 2016
Award-winning blogger and #WFIMediaWatch supremo Kirsty Strickland writes on last night’s Scottish election coverage on the BBC.
Last night’s BBC Scotland election results coverage included a diverse mix of people. There were people in blue suits, people in black suits, people with different colours of ties and with varying degrees of pattern baldness.
Clare Haughey, minutes after winning the Rutherglen constituency, was interviewed by BBC journo Reevel Alderson. After being asked what she would bring to Holyrood, she spoke about her work as an NHS mental health nurse and her trade union background.
He probed further: ”What’s important, I suppose, for many people is – you’ve not been in politics before, AND you are a woman – how important are those two things as you go to Edinburgh?”
Let’s be fair to Alderson, he must have been put on the spot when Haughey arrived to be interviewed. Who is this unsuited, unbearded, being? Chaos back in the studio as the producer quickly tries to identify what she is from a flip book of different types of people that they keep to hand for such occasions.
*We’re pretty sure she is one of those women-type-people, Reeval. Can you check that her being a ‘special type of man’ won’t impact on her new role as an MSP? *
Anybody watching the coverage last night would be forgiven for forgetting that Scotland has three female party leaders as well as active and effective women’s groups and campaigns like WFI and Women 50:50. Hour after hour past, while men got comfy in the studio chairs. We heard from women occasionally, but for all intents and purposes a one woman in – one woman out policy seemed to be operating.
Quite what disaster they thought would ensue if they let Lesley Riddoch, Cat Boyd and Angela Haggerty in from the purgatory of the ‘Election Café’ remains to be seen. Scarily low-octave voices, perhaps?
At one point Lesley Riddoch tweeted about the glaring imbalance saying ”starting to wonder why I’m here”
We watched man after man after man being given airtime to indulgently witter on, in a format where new voices are key to keeping the night interesting and moving.
A few helpful lads got in touch to tell #WFImediawatch how silly we were being for even noticing the lack of women. What does it matter what sex they are?
Well, it matters because consistent gender imbalance demonstrates that women’s voices are still far down the agenda. It matters because the BBC had 5 years to plan this programme. Women were sitting twiddling their thumbs, ready to represent us – and they weren’t given a fair shot. It matters because the last time we checked Scotland isn’t immune from the scourge of inequality, gender based violence and the pay gap. It matters because the Scottish Parliament is 65% male – again.
It matters because clearly nothing is going to change unless we make some noise. How will broadcasters ever see gender balance as an essential factor in their output when the only people they talk to are men?
It’s time for a reasoned, diverse, solutions-based conversation about how women are represented to us in Scotland. There will be those that sneer and ask what all the fuss is about; but that is nothing new, nor a stumbling block to seek change.
If women are not on these programmes – let’s ask where they are.
If an all male panel is the status quo – let’s point out why it shouldn’t be.
If our voices aren’t being heard – let’s shout a helluva lot louder.
If all else fails, we can club together and bulk-buy 3 piece suits while growing the best moustaches our estrogen filled bodies will allow. The chairs will be ours for the taking then.