Following a damaging gender pay row at the corporation, the BBC has pledged to have a 50:50 gender split of expert voices on its news and current affairs programmes from next year
Anyone who’s listened to a keystone BBC Radio debate with zero female voices in the mix will know how frustrating this lack of gender parity can be.
The situation becomes even more galling when the issue at hand centrally involves women (say, abortion rights or maternity leave).
So, it comes as welcome news to hear that the BBC has pledged to have a 50:50 balance of male and female contributors on its news programmes by April 2019.
BBC director general Tony Hall said the move would “transform the range of expert voices across the BBC”, at a time when the corporation is still reeling from damaging revelations over its gender pay gap.
Last summer, the BBC published a list of its top-earning talent for the first time, triggering a row over the gaping gender pay gap between its leading male and female stars.
On the Today programme alone - one of the BBC’s flagship news shows - John Humphrys was paid between £600,000 and £649,000 and Nick Robinson £250,000 to £299,999, compared to Mishal Husain, who earnt less than £250,000 and Sarah Montague at less than £150,000.
BBC China editor Carrie Gracie later resigned in protest at a “secretive and illegal” pay culture, after it emerged that she had been underpaid by £100,000 since 2014.
This latest move towards more female voices on BBC news programmes won’t necessarily help the fact that many men at the corporation are routinely paid more than women just because of their gender.
But it will at least boost the visibility of women at the publicly-funded broadcaster, as well as providing greater parity in the reporting and analysis of current affairs.
Over the next year, news and current affair programmes at the BBC will follow the lead of Outside Source, which has begun monitoring the gender of those featured on its show with the 50:50 project.
Outside Source achieved its self-determined gender balance within three months, promoting other shows such as Radio 4’s File on Four and The One Show to also take part in the challenge.
“We are starting to see a real transformation across the BBC. But we want to go further and faster,” says director of news Fran Unsworth.
“The success already delivered demonstrates the desire and commitment of BBC teams to lead the way on this important issue.”
Images: BBC and Getty