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Girls & Women

BBC Says It Will Make Sure Half of Its On-Air Experts Are Women

This weekend, the BBC announced a plan to ensure half of all experts who appear on-screen are women by April 2019. 

The move is geared at more than 80 BBC programs, according to a press release, and will be self-monitored — meaning that individual programs are tasked with bringing their male/female ratio to 50:50. 

The news comes after the organization already pledged that half of its on-air and lead roles will be filled by women by 2020. 

“We are starting to see a real transformation across the BBC. But we want to go further and faster,” Fran Unsworth, BBC director of news, said in a statement. “That’s why the BBC is now setting the challenge of all programmes — on both radio and TV — that use expert contributors, to meet a 50/50 split of contributors by April 2019.”

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Select BBC programs have already adopted the 50:50 challenge, including “The Andrew Marr show on BBC One” and Radio 4’s “File on 4,” The Telegraph reports. According to the BBC, these stations saw a 10 percent rise in female experts between January 2017 and today.  

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“This is a fantastic project that is already driving change,” Lord Tony Hall of Birkenhead, the director-general of BBC, said in a statement. “Adopting it more widely will help transform the range of expert voices across the BBC.”

Global Citizen campaigns on the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, including goal number five — gender equality — which calls for “women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life.” You can join and take action on this issue here

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In the wake of the announcement, not everyone has been convinced of the BBC’s motives. 

Some have called on BBC to address existing pay discrimination cases, saying the move to ensure women as experts is meant to distract from other issues. 

“I suspect this is being trumpeted now in order to divert attention away from the BBC’s still unresolved cases of pay discrimination against female employees,” Sophie Walker, the leader of the Women’s Equality Party, told The Guardian. “If this is not to be seen as another sleight of hand, the BBC must tackle the structured inequality throughout its own organisation.”

According to the 2017 BBC Statutory Gender Pay Report, the gender pay gap for women and men at BBC was 9.3%, which is slightly lower than the 9.6% gap across the United Kingdom. 

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But in some cases, the gap has been more sizeable, such as when tennis star Martina Navratilova was reportedly paid 10 times less than co-commentator John McEnroe during their BBC broadcast of Wimbledon. 

As a field, journalism tends to be male-dominated. One study found that nearly three in four management positions at 500 media companies in 60 countries were held by men

Still, others have pointed out that diversity gaps go beyond just gender. 

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Jane Garvey, a member of the BBC Women Group, told the Guardian that the move to ensure female experts, “tackles one aspect [of discrimination], but not diversity in other areas.” 

The BBC, she added, “has to do loads more.”