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LONDON – New BBC director general George Entwistle has acknowledged early on that the British public broadcaster needs to do more to get female hosts and experts on the air.
Now, a freelance journalist and a partner have launched a new web site to address the lack of female pundits featured on BBC radio and TV shows. The Guardian reported that thewomensroom.org.uk will allow women to register to provide a pool of expert sources.
“Again and again, the BBC doesn’t try hard enough,” said Caroline Criado-Perez, a freelance journalist and blogger who co-founded the site with partner Catherine Smith. “Seemingly, it doesn’t think fair representation is particularly important.”
She pointed to the BBC’s recent failure to find a female analyst to discuss breast cancer treatment on a Radio 4 news program. Criado-Perez said she quickly found female experts via Twitter.
The new web site has had a trial run that saw more than 40 women sign up within 48 hours. Their areas of expertise included standup comedy, entrepreneurship, new media, personal finance, domestic violence and feminism.
“We welcome the endeavor to help identify women experts,” a BBC spokeswoman told the Guardian. “We can do more. However, we are also at the mercy of the professions involved in stories. For example, the research into breast cancer screening was undertaken by male scientists.”
Criado-Perez also acknowledges that women experts must at times be encouraged to appear on TV or radio more so than male peers. “That female reticence is something to be tackled,” she said. “Women don’t define themselves as “experts,” and they don’t put themselves forward.”
But she emphasized that the British media must try harder as it “again and again [draws] on a small privileged group, and the knock-on effect is that all those other voices aren’t heard.” Concluded Criado-Perez: “The BBC says it can’t find female experts. We say, you’re just not looking hard enough.”
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