To what degree is the news media democratic, inclusive and participatory from a gender perspective? This report presents findings of a survey taken on one ‘ordinary’ news day to record the portrayal and representation of women and men in the news media. The results are compared with previous surveys, taken every four years since 1995, to illustrate longitudinal trends. Women are underrepresented in news coverage, resulting in an unbalanced representation of the world.
News can influence policy agendas and public debate. Consequently, under-representation, insufficient media coverage and the prevalence of stereotypical information are obstacles to the equal enjoyment of freedom of expression.
Only 24 per cent of the people heard or read about in print, radio and television news are female. Whilst this is a significant improvement from 17 per cent in 1995, it will take 40 years to reach parity if the rate of change observed since 2000 is maintained. Furthermore:
- The percentage of stories reported by female reporters on radio, television and newspapers is 37 per cent, a figure which has not increased since 2005.
- Only six per cent of stories highlight issues of gender equality or inequality, and stories by female reporters are more likely to challenge gender stereotypes.
- High proportions of stories on peace, war and gender-based violence reinforce gender stereotypes.
- Out of five selected Millennium Development Goals, reporting on HIV and AIDS was found to be the most gender-responsive.
- Women comprise only 23 per cent of news subjects in online news stories.
- Sixteen per cent of female online news subjects were depicted as victims, in comparison to only five per cent of male news subjects.
Ethical reporting can only achieved by increasing women’s participation in and access to the media and by promoting a balanced portrayal of women in the media. This could be accomplished by working with training institutions, practitioner organisations, journalists’ unions, governments and the private sector to:
- Create gender and media curricula for schools and journalism training centres.
- Train media owners, director generals and programme producers on gender balanced reporting and gender sensitisation.
- Adopt and apply gender parity policies in the media and apply gender sensitive codes of practice.
- Compile and promote the use of regional directories of female experts and then distribute this to the news media to increase the presence of women in the news.
- Promote women’s leadership in the media by encouraging the training of women media professionals.
- Undertake gender and media monitoring initiatives, including the production of statistics on the gender dimensions of news and media.