With a little help, women experts will flourish, says Claire Richmond.
I have to admit I’ve never really noticed a lack of women in news and current affairs programmes.
But that’s probably because the news is generally on in the background while I’m doing other things – driving, making breakfast, knitting a baby blanket (long story). I’m listening to what’s being said, not focusing on who’s saying it.
But the results from City University’s research are in: men typically outnumber women by four to one in news and current affairs. And the issue is now being addressed, which is great news, because there are thousands of female experts who want to be on TV. And they’re very easy to find.
Eighteen years ago, when I started my TV career on The Big Breakfast, all we had were BT Directory Enquiries, the Book of Associations and a fax machine.
But thanks to Google, university websites, Twitter, Linked-In, Facebook, email, text messages and findaTVexpert.com – the database of experts, male and female, that I set up in 2008 to help bridge the gap between the professionals and the programme-makers – we can track down experts in record time, and for free.
Rather than just focus on numbers, however, I think we should make sure new female experts come across well on camera. The same applies to new male experts – I’d like to see more experts on TV in general.
Hopefully, gone are the days when bewildered taxi drivers get mistaken for computer experts on national news programmes.
But having spoken to some experts who were found on findaTVexpert.com recently and booked for TV, it seems that expert guests still aren’t being briefed properly – over the phone and when they arrive in the studio – to ensure they deliver the engaging debates we want to hear.
And by briefing, I mean everything from going through the questions to discussing what to (and what not to) wear. It might take an extra 10 minutes per booking, but surely it’s worth it.
If all the female experts who are booked for TV interviews look great on camera and make the programmes come alive with their passion, knowledge and expertise, everyone will feel more confident about booking them. And as a result, more female experts will be booked.
It’s great to hear that the BBC and ITV are discussing mentoring and masterclasses for new female experts, as well as pan-industry support through the Creative Diversity Network. Count me in if I can help. But big initiatives don’t happen overnight.
In the meantime, in addition to signing Broadcast’s petition to get broadcasters to increase the number of expert women interviewees (632 signatures and counting), let’s all make a personal commitment to help every female expert we book to stand out and be memorable.
Because it’s about quality, not quantity. I want to see inspiring and engaging women on TV. And if we can make this happen – by briefing them better and sharing some practical tips – the numbers will follow.
Next month, I’m launching another free, online seminar for experts, ‘How to Shine on TV’. Thanks to modern technology, I can invite guest presenters to join the seminar.
So if you’re a TV producer who knows what you want from the experts you book, why not share your knowledge with them?
Claire Richmond is a TV producer, talent hunter and founder of findaTVexpert.com