Gender inequity can enter news stories or programmes in all sorts of ways, some of them very subtle and difficult to spot. This can be especially so in production techniques, which radio and television programme makers often take for granted and so do not question, even when they convey subliminal messages. Just as you must question how stories are selected, staff and talent chosen and language is used, so you must pay attention to the ‘nuts and bolts’ of producing stories and programmes, down to the level (volume) of audio recording or the angle of a camera on an interviewee. The following are just a few things to consider.
To ensure appropriate depictions of both sexes, broadcasters need to provide balanced views by exploring all possible angles for a fair presentation. Negative portrayals can take many forms, including stereotyping, stigmatisation and victimisation, degrading material, and exploitation. Stereotyping is a form of generalisation that is frequently simplistic, belittling, hurtful or prejudicial.
For example, to balance the stereotype of men as rough and unemotional could mean showing men who are sensitive, caring individuals, acting as full partners in the household and with childcare responsibilities. Instead of portraying women as weak and powerless, you can show them as pro-active, independent and having a leading role. This does not mean that you should be dishonest or invent characters or qualities. Just ask yourself whether your treatment is honest or just perpetuating a stereotype. Do not always film men in workplaces or women in kitchens.
One quick way to check for balance is to ask yourself: ‘If I do it this way or ask this question of a woman, would I do it a similar way or ask a similar question of a man?’ If the answer is no, ask yourself how you can shoot or ecord it differently or ask better questions. Sometime, of course, a gender- specific question is appropriate. For example, it is valid to ask a woman appointed as your country’s first female Chief Justice what it means that she’s a woman, even if you wouldn’t ask a man such a question.
Ensure that production techniques and routines reflect the diversity of your society and the women and men within it. And remember, each person in a programme will have several social, cultural and dramatic dimensions. Considering the diversity of participants and what they can bring to a role or programme can enhance production values.
“HUM TV, standing out as the most viewed entertainment channel in Pakistan, owes its popularity to the fact that itscontent covers the entire family with special focus on females of Pakistan. Its programmes offer everything from soap operas and game shows, to shows about modern women’s issues such as child care and careers. Additionally, HUM TV also stands out in its composition of workforce. Ms Sultana Siddiqui, the president of HUM TV who has won many awards for her work on gender issues, is currently the only woman in South Asia to be heading a Television Channel. Apart from that, many other departments such as human resources, programmes, script etc are headed by women as well.”
• in different roles in the story;
• in different occupations, positions and social status;
• of different ages, ethnicity and religions;
• who may be under-represented in the media, for example,women with disabilities and in rural locations; and
• who have won recognition for their achievements.
• Avoid portraying women only in connection to the family relationship, for example: ‘mother of five’ or ‘the wife of Mr. X’.Give them a voice in their own right.
• Do not sensationalise women just because they have achieved something men have achieved, unless this factor can usefully advance gender equity or provide role models for other women or girls.
Interviewing techniques can be very revealing and can also carrysubtle messages about gender. Consider gender dimensions whenchoosing interviewees, before the interview in preparing questionsand afterwards when editing material. Some other things to consider include:
• Use appropriate, neutral and non-intimidating approaches –verbal and non-verbal – when interviewing victims of trauma,but do not patronise interviewees whether female or male.
• Avoid language that stereotypes men and women according to traditional gender roles. Terms such as ‘housewife’ are often misleading and not useful.
• Avoid the inappropriate use of gender dimensions to prove a point. For example, do not ask a woman: ‘As a woman, how do you feel about rape?’ unless the issue is the difference between male and female attitudes towards it.
“In 2010 the Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS) conducted the ‘Women Backpack Journalists Training Programme’ in the southern provinces of Thailand, sponsored by Canada Fund and coordinated by the Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development (AIBD). The programme was designed to create not only awareness of the women trainees on gender imbalanced portrayals found in the generally male- dominated media culture. It was also designed to equip the participating women villagers with functional skills to produce a short TV documentary of their own stories or their roles in families and communities, from a female perspective, to be broadcasted on Thai PBS.
79 women from 14 southern provinces participated in this training programme. They came from all walks of lives, i.e., housewives, farmers, students, teachers, and social workers. None of them was media professional. The programme provided these female trainees an opportunity to discuss gender issues, to understand how the media work, to create their own content and to tell their stories through TV documentary. Whether or not their documentaries met professional standard was not as important as how much they were able to learn to exercise ‘their rights to tell’ which has contributed to the women empowerment endeavours.”
Camera angles, sound and light are subtle influences in shaping the image of the status of a person and creating meaning. There are many things you can do to avoid gender bias including:
• Use similar quality of sound and light for both genders. For example, do not use softer focus for women but sharper light for men.
• Use non-discriminatory techniques and camera angles when framing people. For example, do not shoot all men at eye-level but shoot down at women.
• Choose locations carefully to tell the story, not to represent gender stereotypes. For example, if you would interview a male judge in his chambers about a legal case, film a female judge in a similar environment rather than sitting in her garden drinking tea.
• Do not objectify woman and do not portray them as ‘sex symbols’ if you would not use a similar approach for a man.
Treatment of sensitive issues like prostitution, violence against women, sexual harassment or female infanticide in programmes needs extra care in production to show respect and to protect the identities of innocent, vulnerable people.
Consider gender issues when scheduling a programme for transmission or when choosing which issues to cover. Many factors can influence scheduling decisions, including:
• Break down stereotypes and inform audiences by including a range of subjects such as economics, politics or technology in programming slots that are allocated to women or so-called ‘women’s programmes’.
• Consider airing during prime time family topics that are usually related to women, such as the upbringing of children.
• Schedule gender issues during prime-time rather than relegating them to women’s programmes only.
GENDER SMART BROADCASTERS CAN:
• AVOID THE STEREOTYPING OF ROLES FOR WOMEN AND MEN.
• INTRODUCE GREATER DIVERSITY IN TOPICS, TALENT AND TECHNIQUES.
• SHOW SENSITIVITY AND RESPECT TO THE SUBJECT MATTER AND THE INDIVIDUALS INVOLVED PARTICULARLY IN REGARD TO GENDER.
• CHECK TECHNIQUES AND APPROACHES TO INTERVIEWS AND PRODUCTION TO AVOID DISCRIMINATION.
• BROADEN THE PROGRAM SUBJECT MATTER ACROSS ALL VIEWING AND LISTENING TIME SLOTS TO INCLUDE AND PROMOTE GENDER ISSUES AS A FOCUS ON GENDER.