Male domination of broadcasting 'must be ended'

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The Independent Online
Lord Rees-Mogg, chairman of the Broadcasting Standards Council, yesterday said television and radio were far too male-dominated and called for the creation of a new national consumer council to ensure that the output and mix was changed.

He was particularly concerned about the way that the interests of women and children were not represented in programme-making and scheduling.

He said: 'Broadcasting is frankly male-dominated. The broadcasting establishment doesn't understand women are half the audience. It is something I feel very strongly about. Broadcasting is about time and money and having a position of authority over time or money. If you can't control either time or money, you can't control broadcasting.'

Because only a tiny minority of TV and radio executives are women, this naturally affects the kind of output, he said. 'It is not that we need just more women, we need many, many more.'

The BSC, in its annual report published yesterday, says it has recently met a range of women on a confidential basis to discuss their perspectives on broadcasting issues. The council reports that there is a strong feeling that the present programmes are inadequate and that this will only change when more women are in senior powerful positions.

Lord Rees-Mogg, asked about the sort of programmes which demonstrate the male-dominated culture of television which he condemns, pointed to the film Visiting Hours, which showed a woman being stalked by a psychopath and which was censured by the BSC earlier this year. 'It is inconceivable any woman would have either made or shown that film,' he said.

Melvyn Bragg's A Time To Dance, shown on BBC 1 earlier this year, and which attracted record complaints and was censured by the BSC for a violent rape scene, was also singled out yesterday as an example of a male- made programme.

Lord Rees-Mogg said women saw television as an alien force made by men for women, coming into their homes with values and interests that they do not share. 'That is a sign of the imagination of television being dominated by male fantasies.

'If you had a genuine equality in broadcasting it would be different. Exactly how different, though, is difficult to say.'

He said that he was now convinced that there was a need for a strong national consumer council to represent the interests and views of viewers. He pointed to the great gap which exists at the BBC, where the governors have divided loyalties between defending the programme producers while also representing the public interest. Lord Rees-Mogg, a former deputy chairman of the BBC, said that complaints from viewers were fobbed off.

The council said it was also debating what the parameters of taste and decency should be for alternative comedy, and that while it was receiving complaints it had not upheld any. It was also carrying out consultations about the way disabled people are portrayed in stereotyped roles on television.

Broadcasting Standards Council Annual Report; 5-8 The Sanctuary, London SW1P 3JS; pounds 4.

Media, page 15