Radio 4 Today prog and tabloids in deep water over sexism

Too few women on Today programme – and too many naked women in the ‘relentlessy sexist’ papers

LAST UPDATED AT 13:06 ON Wed 25 Jan 2012

CULTURE minister Ed Vaizey is demanding a meeting with the BBC to ask why so few of the presenters and guests on Radio 4’s flagship current affairs show, Today, are female. He told MPs that eight out of ten on average are male. One morning last July, listeners had to wait for two hours to hear a single female contributor.
 
Vaizey, speaking in a Commons debate on Gender Balance in Broadcasting, said it was a “cause for concern”. The Daily Telegraph reports that he now plans a meeting between Nadine Dorries, the Tory MP who organised the debate, and Director-General Mark Thompson to discuss why women are not given a more prominent role at the BBC.  
 
The Commons debate took place the night before representatives of four women's campaign groups called on Lord Justice Leveson to use his inquiry into press ethics to tackle “relentless” sexism in the tabloids like The Sun and The Star and, in particular, an over-use of sexualised images.

The women went armed with photographic evidence so explicit it had to be censored before being distributed at the inqury.
 
Spokeswoman Anna van Heeswijk, quoted in The Guardian, pointed out the irony that the images they had brought were "censored for adults within this inquiry, when in fact they are freely available in mainstream newspapers, which are not age-restricted."
 
The women accused some papers of reporting sexual assaults in a way that perpetuates myths about rape being a woman's fault because of her behaviour or style of dress.
 
One particularly distasteful example they highlighted was a Daily Mail report about a group of men gang-raping 12 year girls. In it the assault was described as an "orgy" and the victims as "Lolitas".
 
The group are looking for a ban on newspapers printing naked and semi-naked pictures of women, although Leveson pointed out that his powers were limited and the change would need "rock-solid legislation".  · 

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