The media – one of the twelve critical areas of concern in the Beijing Platform for Action – is one of the most important yet challenging areas of work for advancing gender equality. Today, with greater access to online participation and the expansion of social networks, the media is influencing societies and communities more than ever. However, the media itself, who is claiming to reflect society, is in many cases unrepresentative of that society. In fact, even though an important factor for broadcasters – especially public broadcasters – is how to ensure all voices are heard in a community, women are often simply missing.
Freedom of speech does not only mean “the right to freedom of opinion and expression”. It also means giving equal voice and air-time to women and men, and representing both in their multiple roles in society. And as much as the media has a duty to serve as a societal watchdog, the media itself must lead by example in its own operations. The striving for journalistic values and ethical principles such as honesty, accuracy and impartiality should include the elimination of stereotypical bias against women likewise. Although female stereotypes such as the selfless mother so popular in advertisements have a lot of positive connotations, they are nevertheless stereotypes, which certainly do not reflect every woman’s experiences and aspirations. Media, as an important part of society’s communication, should opt to contribute changing public mind-sets that are shaped by centuries of socialisation and cemented by custom, culture and religion. In that process, programme-makers, critics and viewers all share part of the responsibility.
In fact, presently more women than ever are working in media, but they do not play an equal role. Few women are advancing to senior or management levels which gives them only limited control over what is newsworthy and what not, which and most all of which way stories are covered. Additionally, in many countries, women seeking to enter the media industries face discrimination in the workplace, unequal and unfair treatment in terms of payment, assignments and promotions, inflexible work environments, and a lack of support mechanisms for working women.
As can be seen, gender equality in media has many dimensions: access, representation, participation, visibility, space and language. We hope that these Guidelines will help Asia-Pacific broadcasting organisations deal with the gender gap by using accessible language and examples. Compiled by a Working Group which comes from a broad range of Asia-Pacific countries and organisations, the Guidelines bring together important and useful considerations and ideas in one valuable resource that can support broadcasters as a roadmap towards a more gender-inclusive workforce, coverage and output. The Friedrich-Ebert- Stiftung would like to thank the Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development (AIBD) and all the committed contributors that made this publication possible.
Henning Effner, Resident Director for Malaysia and Myanmar, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.
Sabine Franze, Programme Officer,Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.