What messages do news media convey about who and what is important? This report analyses the results of extensive research into gender representation in news media – the third Global Media Monitoring Project (2005). It matters profoundly who and what is selected (or not selected) to appear in news coverage, and how individuals and events are portrayed. Most news is at best gender blind, at worst gender biased. Media monitoring facilitates advocacy, and skills in media analysis are important for informed citizenship.
Seventy-six countries took part in the third Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) on 16 February 2005. Volunteer groups coded almost 13,000 news stories on television, radio and in print.
The 2005 GMMP found that women were largely excluded from and misrepresented by the world’s media. Further, news reports rarely analysed issues in a way that differentiated between women and men.
- Visibility of women in the news: Only 21 percent of news subjects were female, (up from 17 percent in 1995), and women’s views on major topics were rarely presented. (Even in relation to gender-based violence, 64 per cent of news subjects were men.) Women were featured as ‘celebrities’ or ‘ordinary’ people, but the expert opinions provided were largely from men and female professionals were under-represented.
- News delivery: The percentage of news items reported by women rose from 28 per cent in 1995 to 37 per cent in 2005. Male journalists reported at the ‘serious’ end of the news spectrum such as politics and government.
- News content: Just 10 per cent of all news stories focused on women. News stories were twice as likely to reinforce (6 per cent) as to challenge (3 per cent) gender stereotypes. Only 4 per cent of stories highlighted gender (in)equality, but encouragingly, men reported 53 per cent of these stories.
- Journalistic practice: Gender portrayal was influenced by the story angle, the choice of interview questions, the use of language and the choice of images. Stereotyping was both subtle (via assumptions about gender roles) and blatant.
News reporting should give equal weight to female and male voices, and highlight the often hidden gender dimensions of topics in the news. Fair gender portrayal must be a criterion of high-quality journalism. Action is needed in the following areas:
- Advocacy and lobbying: Media organisations need to be engaged in debate about how to improve the gender balance in news and in other types of media output.
- Media policies and accountability: Editorial reviews and staff assessment should cover adherence to editorial guidelines so that accountability is in place for the implementation (not just the adoption) of gender-sensitive policy.
- Organisational targets and in-house monitoring: Realistic and regularly monitored numerical targets for achieving gender balance in news reports can be useful.
- Sensitisation to gender issues through both entry-level journalism training and professional development.
- Media analysis skills: Donors need to recognise the importance of critical media skills in informed citizenship; media literacy work should be significantly expanded.
- Development of monitoring: Detailed profiles of gender patterns in particular news organisations can inform advocacy. These can be constructed through regional, national and local monitoring. The internet should be included in monitoring and advocacy efforts.