When people complain about programmes such as Woman's Hour, they usually make the argument that Radio 4 has no such thing as an "Hour for Men". The counter-argument tends to be that every other hour is for men who should toddle off and watch Top Gear until they calm down.
Last week, the counter-argument gained ground when City University London revealed the results of a recent study. Researchers watched the BBC's Ten O'Clock News for a week, and discovered that nine out of 10 "experts" on the programme were men. This cannot be because BBC researchers can't find any women. Woman's Hour manages it just fine. Last week, I appeared on the programme, my field of expertise in this case being that of a feminist getting married, but a producer found me by Googling me.
But it's not only the BBC. On Tuesday, Channel 4 News held a discussion about the sexing up of classic novels to appeal to a market addicted to literary smut. The presenter Jon Snow called on the writer Zoe Margolis in support of mucky books, and Professor John Sutherland to voice his disquiet. I bow to no woman in my admiration for Professor Sutherland, who was as intelligent, thoughtful and entertaining as always. But these books are not aimed at him. Could Channel 4 not have found another literate woman to talk about books aimed primarily at female readers? Hint to Channel 4: this paper's literary editor can be contacted through its switchboard and has also read Jane Eyre.
It is important that women are represented because women's experiences are often different from men's. The novelist and critic Amanda Craig has pointed out before that if books pages didn't limit their reviews of Serious Literary Fiction almost exclusively to those reviewers with hairy chests, somebody might have spotted "the risible scene in Ian McEwan's Saturday" in which a woman quotes poetry at a would-be rapist, and which "male critics swallowed without a murmur". But although women read more books than men, predominantly male experts are allowed to comment on them.
It is also important that women are represented, because more than half the population is female, and even female viewers count. However, this fact seems to be lost on those who commission sport on TV. Hurrah for the Olympics, as female athletes and experts at least sometimes appear on our screens. But from the rest of the year's output you wouldn't know that any women are involved in sport. And we wonder why girls are shunning sport. A few more visible role models such as Serena Williams and Casey Stoney might help to inspire girls. I haven't met a woman yet who wanted to train hard in the hope that one day she could be just like Wayne Rooney.
I notice that the BBC's athletics commentary team includes eight men and one woman. For football, it's eight to five. No women will commentate on the rowing. Three cheers, then, to programme presenters Sue Barker, Gabby Logan and Clare Balding: talented, expert and even the BBC could find them. Gold medals all round.Reuse content