Whatever the format, improving the gathering of sources for content production enables a better quality of public debate and a diverse range of people to feed into the discussions about our societies. An important factor for broadcasters – especially public broadcasters – is how to ensure all voices in a community are heard. Addressing the gap in gender leads to more featured voices outside of ‘traditional’ sources for talking heads. From women and girls, to the elderly, marginalised, men and boys, widening the range of sources brings different views to the broadcast agenda and boosts fairness and balance.
Staffing: Who will actually cover what story or make which programme? Traditionally, women have been assigned so-called ‘softer’ stories – about family, fashion and food, while men cover ‘hard’ news such as politics, conflict, economics, international affairs as well as sport. Who decides in your organisation who covers what and are they making fair and effective decisions? Sometimes stories and issues can be given new life by having someone else cover them. If male colleagues have always covered sport, why not also assign interested, competent women to coverage.
Sources: All good broadcasting is about quality and variety of sources and talent. Check your contact book or database to ensure that there is as wide range as possible of sources for information and talent for interviews. Most especially, ensure that there are women you can call on any topic.
Representation: It is not enough to have more women’s voices if the authoritative opinions are still always delivered by men. Bringing the voices of women into mainstream content provides a space where they can speak with dignity and authority. Respected male sources may not be gender-aware even while discussing gender. What they say potentially needs to be balanced or challenged by those with an awareness of the gender issues, particularly when it comes to coverage of politics, campaigns and emotive and sensitive issues.
Monitoring: Media monitoring in many countries and internationally is showing how the industry can do more to highlight women as strong and vibrant sources for information, ideas, and commentary on their own lives. Monitor what you do and learn from external, independent and formal gender audits of media content. An easy global template to follow is via the Global Media Monitoring Project at www.whomakesthenews.org.
Internal accountability: Procedures at the editorial and production level can help open up spaces to talk about gender and diversity in workplaces to increase understanding, awareness and quality of debate amongst broadcast colleagues.
Develop resources: Hold in-house ethics seminars illustrating and explaining how to avoid material which is judgmental or reinforces double standards, stereotypes and stigma in your broadcasting approach. This commitment to resist rather than reinforce negative stereotyping along the lines of gender, race, religion, ethnicity, language, sexuality, age and class also means that while the work is undertaken with the right to freedom of expression via the media, there is a duty to not use material that condones or incites discriminatory views, vilification or violence.
Network: Seek out and partner others working for gender equity and the elimination of discrimination. Such contacts can include media councils and standards groups, professional associations, researchers, activists and students. Encourage and strengthen networking among women journalists and media professionals.
Awards: Recognise quality and creativity for stories that probe, uncover and provoke public debate, especially debate that leads to change for gender justice.
Develop advisory groups: Use consultation to develop and refine standards, broadcasting guidelines, complaints procedures and codes of conduct which reflect a gender perspective – and monitor all feedback about content.