Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

New BBC chief wants more women presenters

Natasha Sayee
Natasha Sayee
Sarah Travers
Sarah Travers

James Harding, the incoming director of news at the BBC, has admitted his discomfort at the lack of women broadcasters on the BBC's bulletins and has promised to address the issue as a priority.

BBC Northern Ireland has been hit particularly hard by a recent exodus of its top female journalists and broadcasters.

Last year, household names and political reporters Yvette Shapiro and Julia Paul left the corporation as part of the BBC's ongoing voluntary redundancy package.

This year has seen a further haemorrhage of female talent as weather forecaster Jackie McCann, newsreader Sarah Travers, journalist Natasha Sayee, senior BBC editor Angelina Fusco and sports presenter Denise Watson all announced their departure within weeks of each other.

In an address to BBC staff, Mr Harding, former editor of The Times, said: "I think that as an outsider there is clearly an issue about the number of female broadcasters – the number of broadcasters on air – that is one thing you do notice, and we're going to have to do something determined about that."

Mr Harding was answering questions from Radio 4 presenter Justin Webb at the organisation's annual BBC News Festival event.

Asked if he could improve the representation of women on BBC news programmes, Harding said: "We're going to have to do it; as a viewer and listener you're aware of it. And you think to yourself, 'Hang on, the BBC can do better than that.' And we can."

Tony Hall, who arrived at the BBC as Director-General at the start of last month, is already under pressure to make changes to rectify a gender imbalance across the organisation.

The lack of female television presenters over the age of 50 has been highlighted in the news media this month. The BBC has also faced criticism over a shortfall of women interviewees in stories broadcast on its news programmes.

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