Sound Women On Air – a programme director’s perspective

Editors note – In the first study of its kind, Sound Women working with Creative Skillset, has undertaken a snapshot study of female presenters on-air. Full details of the report are available here.

In this blog post Matt Jamison, the Programme Director of Amazing Radio, gives his perspective on the report’s findings.

So I met with Maria Williams a couple of weeks ago. As an organisation Amazing Radio have known about Sound Women and watched from afar for a while now. So when we met it was great to hear more about what Sound Women do and more importantly what they are trying to achieve.

Spending most of my early career in commercial radio I have been exposed to quite a bit of what the programmers of the time would call ‘zoo’ format at breakfast time. In reality these shows were more than likely to be be double headed presentations. Presenter A has an opinion. Presenter B has a different opinion. Open the phone lines and play out the pre-recorded calls made after yesterday’s show to get the ball rolling…..record. Usually Simply Red.

What fascinates me about the report released today is that whilst the radio industry as a whole embraces change around it, social media (in the early days you had to fax the show… ask your engineer) SMS, Email etc have all enhanced the accessibility and more importantly the listening pleasure of radio, it seems the talent that broadcasts it you could say in some cases has stagnated. I don’t think Marconi particularly concerned himself with who would present on radio.
One in 5
However, this is 2013! It’s staggering that out of every 5 voices on radio only 1 is female. That figure goes as low as 1 in 8 during the 2 biggest week day audience dayparts of breakfast and drive. Now, you might say ‘there just aren’t as many good female presenters as male’ good luck to you if you do.

But that just isn’t good enough.

I think that to change these figures, and who wouldn’t want to, we need more balance at grass root level. There are too few making it through the various inroads be it BBC, Commercial Radio, Community Radio or even Hospital Radio. They all have their extremely important part to play in keeping the content we broadcast day in day out the very best it can be. Surely if we get the first bit right – finding the talent in the first place. More presenters will make it through and we can redress the balance. Which right now is clearly tipped. Did you know that in co-hosts you are nearly 10 times as likely to hear 2 male presenters than you are 2 female presenters? Also that solo women are more likely to be on the air at weekends than during the week.

As a programmer myself I do the best I can to ensure I listen to everything that I am sent. Right now I am looking for presenters in Dublin. Also shortly will be looking for a hip-hop presenter. I’d love for either of those to be female. By the way you have to have a passion for new music.

Have a look at the research and see what you think.

Meanwhile I’m off to listen to my station – Amazing Radio Ruth Barnes is on right now. As I’m on line though I might listen to Bethan Elfyn again from Sunday. I could hear Gill Mills tonight or wait for tomorrow to hear Shell Zenner………..Must mingle.