Female stars hit out at 'jobs for the boys' in radio
Widespread sexist culture has 'all but drowned out' women's voices on the national airwaves
IRELAND'S top female radio presenters have hit out at the lack of women on prime time shows.
High-profile stars such as Miriam O'Callaghan, Norah Casey and Sile Seoige united in calling on radio bosses to give female presenters a break in the male-dominated "heavyweight" slots.
They spoke out as a Sunday Independent analysis of prime time radio shows – from 7am to 7pm, Monday to Friday – revealed a "jobs for the boys" mentality throughout Ireland's biggest radio stations.
Even the State broadcaster failed to live up to gender equality, with 70 per cent of RTE Radio 1's programmes and all of 2fm's show's fronted by males.
Of the 21 prime time shows on 2fm, Today FM, Newstalk, 98FM and FM104, 100 per cent are hosted by men.
The results have prompted the biggest names in radio to speak out against what they call a "sexist culture" in Irish broadcasting.
RTE's Miriam O'Callaghan told the Sunday Independent: "It's interesting that right now the exact same debate is taking place across the water in UK radio.
"Everyone knows there is a real problem and it simply has to be solved.
"Looking at recent figures in radio, it seems pretty clear that listeners really like listening to women.
"So the old myth that women don't like listening to other women is obviously totally wrong."
The latest JNLR figures show that O'Callaghan has boosted ratings for The John Murray Show by 3,000 to 330,000 while she is standing in for the morning RTE Radio 1 host.
She was also able to celebrate after the listenership of her Sunday slot – which has now been taken over by Aoibhinn Ni Shuilleabhain – jumped by 21,000 in the past three months.
Fellow presenter Norah Casey, who was recently moved from her weekday prime time show to a weekend slot, warned that female voices on the airwaves have now "been all but drowned out".
The businesswoman added that the only way to address the imbalance was through the introduction of gender quotas.
"I think it reflects the exact same way that so many males and their pals are in boardrooms, it's cultural. Men usually appoint men. We don't even get diversity in the men that they appoint. They come from the same background and reflect the same views," she said.
"You have to remember that a lot of the management in these organisations is male too, and the male presenters reflect their ethos and values."
Commenting on the Sunday Independent figures, she added: "It's really disappointing – not just the fact that the presenters are not women, but that a lot of the time contributors aren't women either.
"Even if you look at something as recent as the abortion debate, there is no balance there. Men are overwhelmingly commenting on what is largely a female issue.
"I have been fighting against quotas all my life, but in the past year I have been more and more convinced it's the only way to go. It's been left to its own devices for the past 50 years, and we still haven't got there. So maybe quotas are what it's going to take to change things. At the moment, the woman's voice is all but being drowned out."
Sile Seoige, who learned this week from the JNLR figures that her cancelled show on Newstalk had attracted an additional 10,000 listeners before it was axed, also said that not enough female talent was being showcased on the airwaves.
The Galwegian, who has just landed a new show on TG4 called The Gig, said: "I don't really believe in quotas, it should just go to the right person, be it male or female.
"Do I think there are loads of brilliant female broadcasters in Ireland? Yes. Are they getting enough air play? No."
Louise McSharry, who is currently covering for Ryan Tubridy on 2fm, said: "There's plenty of female talent out there. Ruth Scott and Jenny Greene are great on 2fm, and it's great to see Claire Byrne on the air more.
"But women have to compete really hard to get high-profile presenting roles."
However, a spokeswoman for RTE claimed not enough female presenters were putting themselves forward for the big jobs.
"There is no doubt that women are less represented on national and local airwaves than they should be, particularly as contributors," she said.
"Programme teams universally report how much more difficult they find it to persuade women to go on air than men.
"In order to try to tackle this problem, in May RTE held Ireland's first industry-hosted training and networking day for female area experts willing to become more active in broadcast representation."
Stuart Fogarty, an advertising executive for more than 30 years, described the gender imbalance as "crazy".
"We definitely need to see a change. Who knows? Maybe they'll even let them drive yet. Or have a vote," he said.
"In 2013, this kind of imbalance certainly needs to change."