You think your TV show binge is impressive? Last year, as part of a study to investigate diversity in UK television programming, the Communication Research Group watched 500 hours of UK primetime television over three months. As fun as I’m sure that was, the results are nothing to be happy about.
The report was commissioned by Channel 4, who are looking to make sure their own programming is diverse. The researchers watched BBC1, BBC2, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, and Sky 1 between 7pm and 11pm. During that time they found that women were outnumbered 2-to-1. The researches found that most sexism was directed at women and that the worst type of show for this was comedy, with women frequently the butt of jokes. Across all the programming, women were 5 times more likely to receive sexist comments than men.
The worst balance was found in sport programming with only 2% of presenters and guests being women. Another terribly disappointing stat was that women played 26% of roles in films during the scientific binge. There are movies about men, about women, about all sorts of topics in different movie genres and only a quarter of screen roles are played by women. The researchers found evidence of age discrimination too and revealed that women over 50 are under-represented.
Perhaps the worst finding was that an average of 5 incidents of sexism occurred every hour. Millions of viewers all over the country are tuning in every night and witnessing sexism over and over again, probably with their children watching too. Constantly being barraged with everyday sexism takes its toll. UK television programming has a long way to go in order to be truly diverse. Things aren’t fixed for women just because there’s Loose Women. Of course, the diversity problem affects other demographics and TV programming often discriminates with ableism, racism, homophobia, and transphobia among others. Idris Elba recently gave an excellent address to MPs, making the case for diversity in British TV and film. Here’s hoping someone is listening.
Main image © iStock/Joey Boylan