Media urged to address gender imbalances

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Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, has called on the media to address gender imbalances in the industry by giving women voice in stories.

The plea was made yesterday at the launch of the national report of Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) for 2005.

During 2005, the GMMP monitored five television broadcasts, three radio newscasts and eight newspapers.

The analysis of news subjects based on gender revealed that 74 percent constituted men and only 26 percent were women. In South Africa, women constitute about 51 percent of the total population.

The report also found that 45 percent of media coverage in the country focused on crime and violence, 26 percent on social and legal issues, 13 percent on celebrities and eight percent on arts and culture while government and politics got five percent.

The report also revealed that men dominated as subjects in all topics represented in the media and men also featured as industry experts, with only five percent of women listed as experts.

About 76 countries in the world participate in compiling the global report which maps the representation of women and men in news media worldwide.

The number of monitored items in South Africa was 72 for television broadcasts, 25 for radio and 84 for newspapers with a total of 758 people featured in the news, including presenters, reporters and news subjects.

Ms Mlambo-Ngcuka said there was a need for the media industry to address the identified gender imbalances.

"We can build on the model now in progress observed by the Media Monitoring Project’s research which indicates that a positive trend is on the horizon. It may be spurred on to greater heights,' she said.

She also noted that the report showed that South Africa is five percent higher than the global average of the number of women featured in the news.

"This means that women make up over a quarter of people in the news, and we need to build on that to record the 50/50 representation.' she added.

Ms Mlambo-Ngcuka commended the media especially the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) for ensuring the extensive coverage of this year’s local government elections.

She also urged the broadcaster to demonstrate the same vigour in covering other important events in the country such as the 50th anniversary of the women’s anti-pass march to the Union Buildings.

Dr Teboho Maitse of the Commission of Gender Equality urged the media to contextualise stories so that people can have a better understanding.

"Media fails to contextualise issues. It seems poverty started in 1994 although it has been there before. Why don’t we report on what has changed since then (1994),' she asked.

Dr Maitse said media coverage of women should also give them the dignity they deserved.

"Yes we talk of portrayal of women (in the news media) but we forget about the language. Language empowers and disempowers, so let the people talk - don’t talk on their behalf,' she said.

By Thapelo Sakoana - BuaNews