Anyone who watches Newsnight Scotland – or #newsnicht as it is fondly referred to on Twitter – may have noticed that there is usually a dearth of burdz (or women to give us our Sunday title_ on the programme.
Aside, that is, from the regular presence of Isobel Fraser as a presenter, who does a very fine job of subtly using her lilting tones to skewer politicians and others with laser like accuracy. Her style is way different from the bombastic one of co-presenter Gordon Brewer, who has spent years modelling himself on Jeremy Paxman and largely failing to land a blow.
The issue is particularly acute when the programme arranges one of its talking head panels, to comment on and discuss a topical issue or featured news piece. Whenever a topical political issue is front and central – which is often – commentators such as John Curtice, Gerry Hassan, John McTernan, Bill Jamieson, Euan Crawford and Iain McWhirter are assembled, either in the studio or by feed from Edinburgh/Dundee/London/Aberdeen to contribute their views. Which is not to denigrate nor belittle the contribution they all make, for they are all fine people for such activity. I’d just prefer if room could be found – not occasionally, but regularly – for women commentators too.
Throughout the recent Scottish election and now as we embark on the fourth Scottish Parliamentary session, it would appear that only men are deemed intelligent enough and suitably articulate and erudite to offer the nation an opinion on the weighty matter of the day. I am scratching my memory cells to try to recall which, if any, women have appeared on such a panel in recent months and only one comes to mind: Joyce McMillan.
The latest example was on Monday night when BBC Scotland had secured exclusive access to analysis into the Scottish election results. It was a very important programme examining voter attitudes and shifts in voter behaviour in the May election.
The news piece was compiled and introduced by Kenneth Macdonald, it featured interviews with report authors, Professor James Mitchell, Dr Rob Johns and Dr Chris Carman. These latter two authors were also on the panel, along with Euan Crawford, and John McTernan from London. If it had been a Brewer night rather than a Fraser one, we would have had a male clean sweep.
Well, the burd is mightily fed up with this state of affairs and at the prompting of others who feel similarly, is inviting views on the issue. Does it bother you? I’m guessing the regular male commenters on this here blog who get annoyed whenever I try to raise gender imbalance issues will say no but I live to be pleasantly surprised! It would be good to hear others’ views as well though.
And if you are bothered, what do you think we should do about it? Petition the BBC? Send emails of protest every time it happens? Make a complaint to the Equality and Human Rights Commission that BBC Scotland is in breach of its equality duty – or would that frivolise the seriousness of such powers?
Most importantly of all, which women would you like to see grace the screens of Newsnight Scotland to discuss and debate the weighty – and sometimes not so – political, economic and topical issues of the day?
Oh and here is probably the divisive one – does it matter that in the main, only men are invited to talk about Things That Matter on Scotland’s flagship serious news programme? Would having more women on panels mean different things are said or views are given? Or is it just about ensuring that the over 50% of the population who might have a view on such things are appropriately represented, whether or not their opinion differs?
Post your thoughts on the comment thread below, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet them to @burdzeyeview. I will add them as updates to this here blogpiece over the next few days.
And if I have totally misjudged the “mood of the nation” on this one and no one cares enough to share their thoughts? Well, I’ll don my pinny and the next blogpost will be on baking. You have been warned….