Women (Not) In The News

Reshma Patil

They are in demand to discuss #MeToo.

But studies still underscore that women are not yet considered newsy on national television in India on debates ranging across the economy to foreign affairs and farming to national security.

Data from a study released last month by The Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI) reckoned that women comprised barely 14% of news panelists – compared to 86% men. About 65% of the news panels surveyed were all-male. There were slightly more women panelists on Hindi channels (23.5%) compared to English channels (17%).

The NWMI report cited some of my writing on the topic based on my days in a journalism fellowship programme in 2017 at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism in Oxford.

Certain academic and media organisations in the UK have taken the lead in initiatives seeking to end the under-representation of women experts in the media. I met analysts at City University of London who have amassed years of quantitative records and analysis on the low visibility of women specialists in current affairs broadcasting. Their findings have been discussed from the House of Lords to the BBC Academy. The BBC has an online database of women experts and conducts occasional training sessions for numerous first-time women commentators — they identified 164 women commentators in 2013 alone and 48 in 2017 at the time of my research.

The Reuters Institute published my fellowship report here last year. A version of the paper was reproduced on IndiaSpend, based on a separate five-day sample study, which found that roughly four times more men than women appeared as panelists on English-language television news debates.

Initiatives in the UK have demonstrated ways to narrow the gender gap on television news panels. These can be easily replicated in any newsroom that’s motivated to better represent a variety of views from across the country. But as the NWMI report bluntly stated, the absence of women ‘is hardly noticed by decision-makers in TV news and even by the audience’.

Author: reshmapatil11

Reshma Patil enjoys connecting the dots between local and global news, and India and China, after over a decade in journalism. Her years in Beijing as the first China correspondent of a leading Indian newspaper inspired her non-fiction book Strangers across the Border: Indian Encounters in Boomtown China, (HarperCollins, 2014). Narrated from Beijing to small towns, from the Myanmar border to the South China Sea coast, it was short-listed for the first book (non-fiction) prize at the 2014 Tata Literary Festival in Mumbai. She’s a fellow of the Chevening South Asia Journalism Programme (2016) and she'll spend a semester this year in Oxford on a fellowship at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.