Gaelic Radio’s Gender Equality Problem

A Bella reader, who wants to remain anonymous, has called out the regular domination of male voices on Radio nan Gàidheal’s flagship morning news programme. Last Wednesday’s Aithris na Maidne – ‘Morning Report’ achieved what must be a broadcast nadir, with just 16 minutes (18%) of speaking time voiced by women compared to approximately 74 out of the full 90 minutes running time (83.88%) by men. 

Why does one programme wind up crystallising a world of pain, before shattering it to pieces – bookended by both the worst and best of Scotland?

Two days last week. Two news items. Two horrific events before I was twenty and countless Twitter posts in the last week reminding me of what the train set in motion by Donald Trump – the most infamous part-Scot of the world, and especially the Isle of Lewis – will mean for god knows how many little girls and women like me. 

And twice the geniuses behind the morning news programme from Stornoway-based BBC Radio nan Gàidheal decide it’s ‘Mìchael in America’ that’s the best Gaelic-speaking human they can get in the States to discuss the cataclysmic Supreme Court revocation of the right to abortion for women – a cataclysm that clearly didn’t clatter loudly enough in what passes for the brains the definitely-not-gender-balanced presentation duo on Aithris na Maidne apparently don’t posses. They had a nice ol’ conservation about the topic again last Monday: between one of the two male presenters and a male reporter. Of course they did. 

Sometimes history happens in a thousand moments crashing like a wave all at once, swirling up the deepest sands of time like swarms of tortuous djinn, bringing memories of being that little girl who knew, perhaps before she was ten, that the function of memory to forget is just as important as that of remembering.

Speaking of history and historical moments – on Tuesday Nicola Sturgeon gave what for many of us was the first real sign of hope for change, Independence and a lifeboat out of this shitshow Britain since 2014. Amidst the raised hope, I remember being alone all through the night in my grim former lodgings in 2014, listening to the Overnight IndyRef 2014 Live Broadcast from RnanG – the unbroken hours-long wholly male panel only occasionally hearing from female voices as on location reporters – and now enduring that again seems almost certain and unequivocally intolerable.

After this. After Sarah Everard. After The 81 Women Killed in 28 Weeks Since Sarah Everard. After 2017’s #MeToo – which clearly completely passed the RnanG ‘Morning Report’ presenters by. After the Harvey Weinstein trial, the Alex Salmond trial, the Epstein Escape, Prince Andrew’s Pay Off, Ghislain Maxwell’s Trial, The Netflix Documentaries on Epstein and Bikram. Sexual Harrassment Being Normalised in Schools and Boys Now Swapping Nude Images of Girls Like Game Cards. #Shewasoutforarun – Ashling Murphy, Jan 14th. #Shewasjustwalkinghome – Zara Aleena, June 29th.

It feels like it never, ever ends. 

Women’s wounds are never allowed to heal because they only just scab over before they’re ripped off again, with the latest horror to hit the headlines amidst ever renewed focus on ‘Women’s Safety’ – while calls for men to start recognising our equal humanity and right to dignity and equality in law, power and representation and once and for all to end this awfulness – fall flat and fade like mist. 

Two News Items in Two Days

It took just two over Tuesday and Wednesday, the 28 & 29th of June, to make all this powerfully, immediately relevant – to the Scotland we are and hope to become.

Àireamh nan eucoirean feiseil aig an ìre as àirde ann am barrachd is 50 bliadhna & cùisean èigneachaidh is oidhirpean air èigneachadh ag àrdachadh 15% bho 2021 – agus –  Àireamh luchd-labhairt na Gàidhlig air dùblachadh gu 30% de shluagh na h-Alba.

The number of sexual crimes recorded in Scotland has reached the highest level in over fifty years & cases of rape and attempted rape rose by 15% from 2021 – and – Number of Gaelic Speakers doubled to 30% of Scottish Population.

Like many folk, I was a bit wired on Tuesday night after the First Minister’s Announcement, with all the intensity of hope and serious discussion all over social media until well into the wee hours. And something bubbled up that has been bothering me for a while. So at 7.30am on Wednesday the 29th of June, I took out my pen and paper and started tallying.

Dè mar a bha príomh-phrògram naidheachd na Gàidhlig a’ coimhead airson nam Ban is daoine a tha a’ tighinn a-steach ann an saoghal na Gàidhlig ma-ta? (Aithris na Maidne 29.6.22)

What indeed did the primary agenda-setting morning news program look like for female Gaelic speakers and new entrants into the Gaelic world, if they tuned into ‘Morning Report’ Aithris na Maidne – Wednesday, 29th of June 2022?

Mar fhiosrachadh, eu-coltach ri Good Morning Scotland air BBC Scotland, chan eil co-ionannachd gnè ann a’ thaobh preusantairean air RnanG Aithris na Maidne idir – Unlike its English-language counterpart on Good Morning Scotland, BBC Radio Scotland, there is no gender-balance of presenters for Aithris na Maidne. And while there is much that is praise-worthy about Raidio nan Gàidheal – it remains a vital resource for both learners and fluent speakers – what follows is neither reflection nor attack on the rest of RnanG’s output or staff, and is wholly, solely, related to its flagship news program – the longest at any stage during the day, longer than its TV programme (with which it share much content) – thus rightly deserving closer scrutiny.

Ùine Craolaidh: 75.5 às 90 mionaid (83.88%) den àm iomlan ag fir an coimeas ri 16.5 mionaid (18%) den àm aig mnà

Broadcast Time: 75.5 out of full 90 minutes running time (83.88%) for men, compared to 16.5 minutes (18%) for women(Detailed time & figures below – however let RnanG do the labour of recording all the less-than-halves and thirds of minutes and explaining themselves)

Tursan Bruidhne: 182 (76.47%) ag fir an coimeas ri 56 (23.52%) ag mnà

Spoken Moments: Out of 238 total verbalised interjections/spoken moments: 182 (76.47%) for men, compared to 56 (23.52%) for women. (And god damn, you bet I counted each and every single time one of those men opened their mouths, interrupted, ummed and ahhed and generally got oceans more time and opportunities to be less edited and more entitled, pushy and ‘themselves’ than the women). 

Àireamh Luchd-Labhairt: 20 (64.52%) ag fir an coimeas ri 11 (35.48%) ag mnà 

Speakers by Gender: Out of 31 speakers broadcast: 20 (64.52%) for men, compared to 11 (35.48%) for women

Àireamh Luchd-Labhairt – Poilitigs: 6 (75%) ag fir an coimeas ri 2 (25%) ag mnà

Speakers by Gender on Politics: Out of 8 speakers broadcast: 6 (75%) for men, compared to 2 (25%) for women – notable that 1 being some mere 30 seconds for Nicola Sturgeon, and some 4 minutes for a female reporter. 

I was actually shocked when I tallied and sat through the full opening 36 minutes of hearing no female voices apart from NS herself, the very morning after the most powerful women in the country, once hailed ‘The Most Dangerous Woman in Britain’, delivered the most powerful injection of hope we’ve seen in nearly a decade. Aithris na Maidne’s gender idiocy has increasingly felt like some sort of daily aural patriarchal privilege punishment beating for a while now, but this felt significantly more pointed and revealing than usual. 

Do the figures above fluctuate? Sure. Almost TWENTY THREE minutes out of the 90 minute programme featured female voices on Friday the 1st of July! Give the guys a star for ‘Diversity’!

This is well before looking at the wildly disproportionate amount of time given to Men and Their Balls (Sports) – regularly platformed roughly between 7.38 – 41, 8.18 – 8.28 & 8.49 – 8.55am – almost always vastly outweighing the mere few minutes before 8 or 9am when the apparently vastly less culturally critical matter of Gaelic Arts and Culture **might** be covered. Maybe. Sometimes. Or the matter of the highly frequently platformed Finance, Digital, Medical, Middle East, America and Travel Experts, Misneachd Gaelic Campaign Representatives, Sport and Political Party ‘Supporters’ who are almost solely and always the same male voices – so regularly platformed (and possibly thus paid, compounding gender-based economic inequalities), regular listeners will easily recognise many of their names listed respectively: Coinneach MacMhathain, Domhnall Domhnallach, Dughlas Moireasdan, Iain MacPhersain & Dàibhidh Byrne, Màrtainn Mac a’ Bhàillidh. Special shout out to the guys platformed to speak about Russia’s war and introduced as ‘Man Who Follows This’. Wot with all the mass rape campaigns and kidnapping of women and children, definitely not something us ladies could be following.

At all.

Reminded of the Bosnian Rape camps we hoped would be ‘never again’.

Also, cool feature every five years or so though – WHY are so few women standing for Western Isles Elections?? WHAT a mystery!!

This is fundamentally about wholly un-self aware, unapologetic Patriarchal Privilege, concentrated via Politics and Power – as has so often been in times many hoped were behind us – and it is wholly unacceptable for an ever increasingly vast array of reasons. It is part of an increasingly distressing & damaging broader global ecosystem of misogyny and inequality for women, in which multiple horrific crimes, events, judgements and practices mutually re-inforce and amplify pain and harm, daily, weekly, monthly – creating a chilling effect for women and girls & their voices – highlighted in a major UNESCO Study in 2021.

Chan eil seo math gu leòr ann an 2022 – tha e na nàire mhaslach do luchd-labhairt uile na Gàidhlig – mnà agus fir. Tha sinn uile airidh air cho-ionnanachd nas fheàrr – agus feumar saoghal agus saoghal na Gàidhlig nas fheàrr na seo a bhith againn uile.

This isn’t good enough in 2022 – it is a heinous, grotesque embarrassment and disgrace to all Gaelic speakers – female and male, current and learning. 

We all deserve and must demand so much better.

Ma roinneas sibh seo ris an lìonradh agaibh, thèid agaibhse difear a dhèanamh.

Please share and help argue for positive change.

Figearan Mionaideach / Detailed Breakdowns 29.6.22, Aithris na Maidne, RnanG

Tursan Bruidhinn a-réir Gnè / Spoken Moments by Gender

Fir/Men – 182   |  Mnà/Women – 56      Iomlan/Total: 238

23.52% de na tursan bruidhinn iomlan ag mnà, an coimeas ri 76.47% aig fir.
Women: 23.52% of total spoken moments, Men: 76.47%


7.30 - 8.06am3630s (N.Sturgeon0.5
8.07 - 8.1138.06-8.071


Comments (7)

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  1. Squigglypen says:

    I feel your rage. Join the club.
    Been attacked physically by a gang of boys when I was 7.fought back and they ran away..punched by a pupil..( he’d already kicked another boy in the mouth) Gave him a doing. Numerous exposures by demented men throughout my life…nothing unusual..women get used to it…I won’t mention upskirting…just another fact of life for us.
    And you want women to stand up and stick their head above the parapet! Look at the dreadful abuse online at female MPs. The nonstop carnage of women being murdered. Sarah Everard..chopped in pieces and then the monster( a policeman) took his family to picnic near where her remains lay. He’s now appealing.
    This is just a snapshot of women’s lives.
    So here is my solution..Any man who rapes a woman…castrated. Any man who rapes and kills a woman castrated and executed.
    How’s that sound’s called levelling up….

    1. Anna says:

      It sounds barbaric.

      1. Derek Thomson says:

        It certainly does that Anna. Completely beyond the pale.

        1. Reuben Astrálaigh says:

          Beyond the Pale, huh? As in the, beyond the English Pale of Dublin? As in, from Gaelic Ireland? You sold me then. Castration it is!

  2. Paddy Farrington says:

    Tapadh leibh, gle inntinneach…

    Your piece raises important, and I expect, sensitive issues. It’s all too easy to idealise the Gaeltacht; as an outsider I’m sure I’m as guilty as any in this regard. But doing so will not help it thrive. I hope your critique hits home.

  3. Jennifer Houston says:

    You didn’t point out the obvious here: Nicola Sturgeon can’t string a single sentence together in Gaelic. Some of the BBC’s “Gaelic” programmes, especially on TV are 75% in English, making them near useless for anyone who wants to immerse themselves in the language. So, even though she is FM etc, I’m not even sure she counts because she is not a Gaelic speaking woman.

    Yeah, Nicola is certainly dangerous but not in the way you think. Here’s what she said back in 2018 “I was delighted to welcome Bill Gates to Scotland… The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have an incredible record of bringing about substantial change in the world’s poorest countries, empowering them [sic] to improve their life chances in a range of ways, from improving healthcare and combating infectious diseases to increasing access to education. It is fantastic that they are interested in hearing about the work that Scotland is also doing… we will continue to be good global citizens.”

    At least people in India have had the guts to push back against this billionaire creep. Unlike Nicola. Aye, “good global citizens”.

  4. Abi says:

    Exactly the same in Ireland, especially when it comes to the activist scene. A shame to read it’s a problem in Scotland too.

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