The Sunday Herald

February 4, 2001

Men still dominate when it comes to political interviews

BYLINE: By Steve Wilson


LENGTH: 395 words


The BBC's head of political programmes claimed last week that traditional political reporting, consists of "men interviewing men". But research by Stirling University has shown Scotland's record on interviewing women about politics is better than the rest of the UK's.

While in the UK generally women account for 13% of politicians and government spokespersons interviewed, in Scotland 17% of politicians interviewed are women. The number is still low considering 37% of MSPs are women .

The research by Stirling was part of a global media monitoring project organised by the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC), in which 70 countries participated.

The BBC is trying to improve the balance by assigning a large team of women journalists to cover the general election, with Kirsty Wark leading the reporting in Scotland. Hopefully, that will lead to more women being interviewed in the run-up to polling day. The WACC report suggests women reporting the news, talk to female subjects more frequently than men do. In politics and government stories reported by women, 15% of subjects were female. In those reported by men, only 12% were. But male reporters still dominate in areas such as politics (74%), business (88%) and sport (90%).

David Miller of Stirling's media research institute, said: "The Scottish media overall seemed to feature more women than its counterparts in the rest of the UK. However, if journalists want a political story they are much less likely to interview women than their representation in the political establishment would suggest."

The Scottish parliament has a greater proportion of women than most of the world's other legislatures, but this is not reflected at ministerial level, which could explain why women do not appear as often in the news. Miller claims: "To be interviewed, if you are a woman, you have to be a minister or a spokesperson. That is part of the explanation - the representation at senior level isn't as great as it is at junior levels.

"Women are assumed to be there to feel and not to think. When it is a hard news story the reflex is to go for a man. It is a reflex many journalists don't realise they have. Women are more often asked to comment on soft news stories in healthcare and welfare, but that also happens to be where women journalists are concentrated."