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Feedback: The BBC had "got it wrong on women"

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Roger Bolton Roger Bolton 16:15, Friday, 10 February 2012

Mark Thompson

Mark Thompson: "Those who say that the BBC has a case to answer about the way it treats older women
on the air are right..."

This week the Director General Mark Thompson wrote in the Daily Mail that the BBC had "got it wrong on women" saying that the Corporation does not have enough older female newsreaders and presenters.

This is a strange phenomenon when, as he also pointed out, there had been a revolution in the number of women in leadership roles in the Corporation.

At one point recently the top three roles in BBC Television were filled by women but that did not seem to make a difference to the number of older women on screen.

Indeed it was a woman, Jay Hunt, who was Controller of BBC One when Miriam O'Reilly was ousted as presenter of Countryfile and subsequently won an employment tribunal against the BBC on the grounds of ageism.

Are things better in BBC Radio where only one of the main five network controllers is a woman, and their boss is a man?

Critics would say that might be why for example only one of the Today programme's presenters is a woman and that on Radio 2 there isn't a woman presenter to be heard for most of the day, young or old. (Though it has just been announced that Anneka Rice will be joining as a presenter.)

But are men alone to blame for this imbalance? Are women afraid to promote older women?

Mrs Thatcher did not seem to see it as her responsibility to change the gender balance of her government or party. Is that the position of women leaders in the BBC today?

They have fought so hard to be regarded as equal that could it be that, unlike the Prime Minister David Cameron, who argued this week for more women in the boardroom, they don't feel they can demand more women in in front of the microphone?

Whatever the truth I do think some great women broadcasters are now underused. In my view that includes Sue McGregor, and in particular, Olivia O'Leary.

In the Feedback mailbox this week there is more support for the idea of a woman DG, and for one of our listener candidates who I "interviewed" on last week's Feedback.

We also ask a teacher and pupil to swop music station for seven days, and I try and find out why iPlayer sometimes cuts off the end of radio programmes but not television ones.

You can hear today's programme online shortly after transmission.

Thanks for listening and do keep writing, whatever age or sex you are.

Roger Bolton presents Feedback


  • Comment number 1.

    Fascinating that this blog appeared before the programme was transmitted.


  • Comment number 2.

    I suppose the main problem facing older women is that many viewers prefer seeing younger women on TV. Viewing figures cannot be ignored, and I can understand why a programme producer would be inclined to chose a younger woman over an older one to present a programme. It's the nature of the TV beast. Has any research been done to ascertain what viewers think of older women presenters?

    I listen to Radio 4 and I find the quality of presenters to be very good. I do not think that someone should be got rid of simply to boost the number of older women presenters.

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    It is wonderful and again compliments the BBC that the Moral Maize" is able to openly discuss controversial issues with an unbiased presentation. I have the highest regard for the BBC which internationally and intellectually presents the highest caliber of news and program media on our planet

  • Comment number 5.

    The senior BBC chap who was talking about the iplayer and its failures has another question to answer. Losing a minute at the end of a programme or having a minute of another programme at the start of one on "Listen Again" is one thing, but having nothing for a whole day is something else!

    I repeatedly tried to listen to Sunday Sequence today using the "Listen Again" facility and it simply was not working. There was no message to tell me that it was not working and I thought the fault was with my computer until someone else told me that she had the same problem. Could listeners in future not be told when the "Listen Again" facility is not available?

  • Comment number 6.

    I found Andrew Scott's explanations surrounding the iPlayer editing and availability singularly unconvincing and evasive. Despite his assurances that radio was not TV's poor relation, all the evidence points to the contrary.

    Although his assertion that "radio is inherently live" is generally true if taking the broad sweep of BBC output, it ignored the listeners' issues as raised by Roger Bolton, most of which related to pre-recorded programmes. I don't know the precise percentage, but I guess the majority of Radio 4 content is pre-recorded.

    Scott's assertion that the manually-edited podcasts "take longer to produce" is evidently wrong given that they appear before the programme itself does on the iPlayer system. I understand this is because programme producers place the podcast edit in an 'advance publishing file'. (The Feedback podcast is one such example.)

    As for the assertion that "Manually editing programmes is expensive for iPlayer", Andrew Scott ignored the simple fact that pre-recorded programme files do not need editing - they are already edited - all that is needed is to make available the programme file, like TV does. There is no excuse for not having pre-recorded radio content available on iPlayer immediately after transmission. The current radio practice of re-recording whatever is transmitted between certain time points is both expensive and error-prone. It becomes doubly expensive and error-prone for repeats. It becomes trebly expensive and error-prone when programmes re-appear on e.g. R4Extra, where one steps off the schedule and onto the calendar, with the risk that programme beginnings might contain up to 10 minutes of extraneous material, and where the risk of missing the end of a programme is high. A system based on reliance on the listener complaining, as with the example Roger gave in the Feedback programme, is a fundamentally bad system.

    The current system for pre-recorded content is expensive, antiquated and error-prone, and the sooner Radio adopts the far more sensible TV methodology the better.


  • Comment number 7.

    Well said Russ
    - Link the Iplayer recorder to the continuity announcers fader (My simple idea) , so that when it fades down the audio becomes recorded cos the prog has started. If recording is less than 90s then delete that file as that was not a real prog, but just when a trailer was being played etc. The rare occasions that the announcer interrupts mid programme you'd end up with 2 files, but it would be a simple process to join them manually.


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