Still a man?s world as far as the media is concerned

Date: January 1, 1970
  • SHARE:

16 February 2005: South African Orlando Pirates soccer captain Benedict Vilakazi is charged with the rape of a minor. A tabloid runs the story under the headline: ?Bucs captain on rape rap!? The ?popular skipper? is reported in capital letters to have ?denied the allegations against him.?

16 February 2005: South African Orlando Pirates soccer captain Benedict Vilakazi is charged with the rape of a minor. A tabloid runs the story under the headline: “Bucs captain on rape rap!” The “popular skipper” is reported in capital letters to have “denied the allegations against him.”
The image used is a calendar pin up of Vilakazi with a model. The only source in the story about the “shock charge” is Orlando Pirates announcing that he has been suspended as captain. Far from detracting from the soccer star’s image, the overriding impression is that there is something quite macho about what has happened.
A television report on the same day, covering the same story, had a different take. Under the headline, “He’s scheduled to play tonight, but women’s groups cry foul” the reporter quotes People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA) calling for Vilakazi to be completely suspended from playing pending the outcome of the case, as this would send home a strong message about the seriousness of the allegations.
A spokesperson for the club is quoted as saying “Pirates could not do anything which suggests that we pre-judge the case.” In random street interviews, a man agrees with the position taken by the club; a woman says it would be proper for Vilakazi to step down.
By any journalistic standard, the second story would not only rank as more balanced and fair, but also more interesting because of the diversity of viewpoints.  
And in the monitoring that happened to have taken place on 16 February 2005 as part of the third Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP), the first would have been logged as having only one source (male), and the second two female and two male sources. The first story would also have been tagged as “reinforcing” and the second as “challenging” stereotypes on gender violence.
This is the every day media face of the raw statistics produced by the study that covered 13 000 news items in 76 countries across the globe and has been conducted every five years since the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. Globally over that period, the proportion of women sources in the news has increased by a mere 4% (from 17% to 21%). 
Southern Africa has gone up from an average of 17% women sources in the Gender and Media Baseline Study (GMBS) conducted by the Media Institute of Southern Africa and Gender Links in 2002 to 19% in the global study. Nine out of the thirteen countries showed improvement, with South Africa (26%) followed by Namibia (25%) leading the way.
The top two countries globally are Belgium (31%), Sweden (30%). Rwanda at 29% women sources tops the Africa list.   
The global study launched in London last week, and a more in-depth regional analysis just released by Gender Links, shows that there has been some improvement in women’s voices being heard in “hard” news categories such as politics and sports.
But contrary to the oft heard excuse by journalists that there are no women to be found in these categories, the study shows that women’s voices are not heard in proportion to their strengths in occupational categories. For example, in Southern Africa women comprise in Southern Africa comprise 20% of parliamentarians, but only 14% of the politicians quoted.
A further look at functions of sources shows that women are least likely to be the subject of the story, a spokesperson or an expert, but rather the focus of human interest stories; eye witnesses and participants in snap popular opinion surveys or vox pops. The last category (in which women comprise 46% of the total) is a “quick fix” and normal first response for editors under pressure to give women greater visibility.
Seeking out female opinion in all beats remains a major challenge. The report cites numerous examples of how even when women exist they are ignored, such as a textile factory closing down in which a male minister but none of the female workers is interviewed.
Another instance on the day reported by several media in the region concerned the annual awards of the Confederation on African Football (CAF). African Woman Footballer of the Year Perpetua Nkwocha from Nigeria was the only one of the award winners to actually show up. Yet only three of eight television channels monitored even referred to the Woman Footballer Award.
In South African a reporter covering the event held here concluded: “the glittering gala will unfortunately be remembered for those recipients who won awards, but never showed up.” The presence of Nkwocha was not even acknowledged.
Other than the missing voices of women, the report has a number of interesting measures on how women are portrayed. In Southern Africa, 3% of stories were classified as reinforcing gender stereotypes, compared to 4% challenging stereotypes (the comparative global figures are 6% and 3%).    
As in the global findings, 17% women in Southern Africa are likely to be identified as victims compared to 7% men. The proportion of women likely to be identified according to their family status in Southern Africa has doubled from 11% in the GMBS to 22% (higher than the global average of 17%) while that for men has increased from 2% to 6% (also higher than the global average of 5%).
Globally the proportion of news reported by women has increased steadily to its current level of 37% (31% in Southern Africa). The report shows that women reporters are more likely to consult female opinion (in Southern Africa women sources constituted 28% of the total sources consulted by women journalists compared to 19% of the sources referred to by male journalists (compared to 25% for women and 20% for men in the global findings).
But no country, media house or journalist has quite got around to reporting the world as it is: roughly equal proportions of women and men. 
The Southern Africa analysis concludes that the challenge of achieving gender balance in the news is inextricably linked to the broader challenges of improving media professionalism (like getting away from the “curse of the single source” and improving ethical standards) as well as developing more critical media consumers as part of efforts to deepen democracy.
This will be the focus of the second gender and media summit to be held in Johannesburg in September this year under the banner “media diversity: good for business, good for democracy.”
Colleen Lowe Morna is the Executive Director of Gender Links and Chair of the Southern Africa Gender and Media Network. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service that provides fresh views on everyday news.

Comment on Still a man?s world as far as the media is concerned

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *