Sunday 22 September 2019

It's welcome news in the fight for an equal voice

Stock photo
Stock photo

I let out an unseemly whoop when the news broke that Keelin Shanley and Caitríona Perry were going to be the new 'Six One' anchors on RTÉ. Another when it was revealed Sharon Ní Bheoláin was moving to the 'Nine O'Clock' to join Eileen Dunne. And there's Miriam and Claire, already anchoring current affairs shows. Was this a coup d'etat by de wimmin? Has there been a collective rush of oestrogen to the head out at Montrose?

About eight years ago, I was involved in the setting up of an organisation called Women on Air. Its aim? To get more female voices on radio and television. Many women, although experts in their jobs, feel more nervous than many men about saying "yes" when it comes to being asked to inform and join the discussion on the airwaves. We support and train them.

We battle against "authorities" who believe that men's voices are more authoritative, better informed and have greater import.

There is simply no evidence, then or now, to back it up.

It was an inauspicious start. At our first meeting, in a city hotel, a man passed us by, winked, and asked whether we were a knitting club.

We were told, constantly, there was 'no problem' with women's voices.

After all, weren't lots of the producers and researchers women?

So are the cleaners and receptionists. What's your point, we asked? They're not on air either.

Some stations still lag woefully behind. They're picking presenters and contributors on merit, they say.

But too often, "Who's the bloke we had on last time we discussed this…" is the default position.

RTÉ, in selecting Keelin and Caitríona as news anchors, has made a simple decision about two already experienced, tried and tested journalists from its large stable.

So what?

But we'll take it.

Women on Air's eventual aim is to cease to be needed.

Irish Independent

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