BBC Needs More Female Presenters, Says Liberal Democrat MP Tessa Munt

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Kate Silverton, Sophie Raworth, Fiona Bruce and Susanna Reid during the BBC Children In Need Appeal 2010, at the BBC Television Centre, Wood Lane, London.
Kate Silverton, Sophie Raworth, Fiona Bruce and Susanna Reid during the BBC Children In Need Appeal 2010, at the BBC Television Centre, Wood Lane, London.

The BBC must ensure there are more women presenters and executives working on its radio network if it is to justify its licence fee, an MP said on Thursday after she found that in some cases there were fewer female voices than 25 years ago.

Liberal Democrat MP Tessa Munt discovered that on Radio 2 there were no women with children above the low-ranking assistant producer level, while on Radio 1 only 15% of DJs were female, compared to 16% in 1987.

She said efforts by the Corporation to tackle the issue, which include "further mentoring, further training and succession planning" were patronising as men would not be subject to such scrutiny.

Munt, MP for Wells, said: "The problem is so significant because when you look at the amount of taxpayers' money used to support the BBC, it is millions, and millions and millions.

"Gender shouldn't make a blind bit of difference on the radio because how you look is utterly irrelevant. The balance between men and women is actually a systemic problem because exactly the same happens on the radio as it does on television.

"Radio presenters are very serious figures. They are in one of the most influential media because a lot of young people do not necessarily read the papers. They are hugely, hugely influential."

Munt found that on Radio 1, only six out of the 39 DJs - or 15% - are women, compared to 16% in 1987.

Radio 2 has a slightly higher proportion of women presenters. They account for eight out of 37 presenters but from Monday and Saturday there is not a single female presenter between 8am and 8pm, while on Sundays, Elaine Paige's show accounts for two hours out of a weekly total 84 hours of daytime output.

In management and production at the station, there is not one woman above low-ranking assistant producer level who has children.

Radio 2 does not have a female presenter with children between 8am and 8pm, while Edith Bowman is the only mother to have a show on Radio 1 during the daytime, she found.

In local radio, the gender balance seems even more biased towards men. Of the 43 local breakfast shows, only one woman has a solo show, while there are only 29 female presenters out of the 80 DJs working on peak-time mid-morning and lunchtime shows.

Out of the 12 regional managers, two were women, while only one of those has children. Of the 40 station editors, nine were women.

Munt added: "Working in radio could be considered ideal for some women as most shows are only two or three hours long and a lot of the preparation work can be done at home.

"I think the BBC are going to have to take this problem seriously because after 25 years we are actually in a worse position.

"The best people available should be on the radio but I just do not believe that the best are all men. It would also be good for business, because the majority of the listening population is female.

"There are no good reasons at all, commercially or economically, for not having more women on the radio. It needs to be sorted out."

Munt revealed her research following a debate in the House of Commons on Monday, in which Tory MP Nadine Dorries criticised the BBC for having too few women working on its television and radio shows.

The Tory MP For Mid-Bedfordshire told the House of Commons on Monday evening that unless the corporation reformed ministers should withhold funding.

Dorries focused much of her fire on Andrew Neil, the BBC's political presenter, whom she said was "aggressive, abrasive and often rude".

The outspoken Conservative backbencher has a long-standing dispute with the broadcaster, having previously called him an "orange, overweight, toupee-wearing has-been".

For his part Neil has used the phrase "madder than a box of Nadine Dorrieses".

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