How to be bendy – or CHANGING THE NARRATIVE in the World of television
The future is all about flexibility, being able to bend, but that’s not always easy to achieve.
A year ago, the BBC as a whole set a challenge for it to be more representative and less male dominated, at least on screen, and a 50:50 gauntlet was laid down.
In the 12 months that followed, our mission was to make sure the content we were delivering included the same number of female experts and commentators as male. At that time, in the business and economics unit, the ratio of female contributors was running at 27%.
It was a tough challenge, the content and output and journalistic integrity of our programmes could not suffer, so it wasn’t just a case of quotas.
We had to find senior experts in their areas who were female and were both willing and allowed by their employers to do television interviews. But the main challenge was getting them on air at the specific timeslots our programmes and running orders allowed – a totally inflexible machine.
On BBC World we have a number of business programmes; they are global and viewed by millions. Some are produced and transmitted from overseas bureaus, but the programmes that come from UK have some pretty difficult timeslots – 0530am, 0830am live in the studio in central London.
For fear of stereotyping and upsetting the masses, who believe we live in total equality, it’s the women of the world who suck up the majority of the caring roles in today’s families, which really isn’t that flexible. If you have children, then leaving the house to be on air at 5.30am or 8.30am is pretty much impossible – either you need to have a very flexible partner who is willing to hold the reins on the home front, you have a live-in Nanny or Au Pair or you have to pass over the opportunity.
And heaven forbid you are a single parent!
Those of you who know me well, you are very aware that I’m all about making things happen! So I set up the Blue Book at the BBC, a directory of wonderfully inspiring women who are experts in their field and are both willing and able to juggle their lives to give us an insight into their area of specialism. Every journalist within the business and economics unit has contributed to finding new on air experts, and while we respect and appreciate the hundreds of male voices we know and love, it’s great to now support that roster with women who work alongside them.
A year on and we are overjoyed to report that we achieved our target. In February, 51% of our contributors were female.
I salute the flexibility that our contributors demonstrate on a daily basis, the unsung heroes who enable this to happen and are willing and able to forgo their beauty sleep to give the rest of us a greater understanding of what’s happening in our World.
If you’d like to be considered as a BBC Contributor, please do get in touch! Julia.firstname.lastname@example.org