WFTV CEO Katie Bailiff was asked to comment for an article in Sunday 27 June 2021's Observer newspaper about the increasingly diverse line up of the presenting teams for this year’s Euros and and she penned a few thoughts...
When I took up the post of CEO of Women in Film and Television in January I sat my two sons down and explained that I wouldn’t be working in TV production any more as I’d taken a job ’to fight for equality for women in film and TV.’
‘But will we still see your name on the telly?' asked the crest-fallen eight year old.
’No', I said, 'but I’ll be helping women get some of the jobs they’ve dreamed of doing their whole lives but haven’t been given the opportunity.'
My 11 year old son looked aghast ‘Why do women need anyone to help them? Why can’t they just do it If they’re good at it?’ Out of the mouths of babes and all that.
WFTV has been supporting women and campaigning for better onscreen and offscreen representation for the past 30 years. And on the surface, on the screen at least, things are starting to move in the right direction. Take the coverage of this year's Euros as an example - at the 2016 Euros there were just two female presenters on ITV’s team and three on the BBC’s presenting line–up. This year there are nine females out of a total of 45 across both channels' rosters of presenters and analysts. I have to admit to feeling conflicted – of course it’s fantastic to see and hear from more female sports pundits and presenters during this year's coverage but I can’t quite bring myself to backslap and whoop just yet. We are afterall in 2021 and over half the population are, in fact women.
I think it's fair to say that this year's Euros, just like the World Cup in 2018, are essential viewing for many of us – inspiring social gatherings in the pub and much anticipated family nights-in huddled round the telly. It would therefore stand to reason that ITV and BBC would put together teams that are representative of the families watching, so the presenting teams are as diverse as the audience. In the increasingly competitive TV landscape, channels are not only realising that reflecting their audience onscreen is not only the ‘right’ thing to do it’s also the prudent, commercial thing to do. Otherwise, people will inevitably vote with their remote.
Personally, I get far more drawn into the game and the coverage if the presenter, pundit or analyst is female. The BBC and ITV have been slowly making their TV teams more diverse in terms of gender and race for the last five years. Bringing women into the studio has been made easier in recent years due to the growing popularity and respect for the women's game, especially internationally. A record breaking 28.1 million men and women watched the BBC coverage of the Women’s World Cup on television and online.
The BBC were lucky enough to sign up Alex Scott after she retired from the national and international game and she is not only an excellent pundit but a flag bearer for women looking to move from playing the game to reporting on the game. Personally I think she’s just fantastic – Alex brings a whole other dimension to the punditry – and at times takes the coverage to another level. I thought she particularly came into her own in the incredibly difficult few moments following Christian Erikson’s dramatic collapse on the pitch during Denmark’s Euro 2021 opener. As I tightly squeezed two shell-shocked little boys on the sofa, I found myself quietly thanking Alex for saying just the right thing in just the right way.
What we’ve got to remember is that presenters and pundits are essentially the broadcaster’s shop window – one could argue the easy fix – but there is still so much hard work to be done in terms of diversity and inclusion in the corridors of TV’s power and influence. The fellow male pundits; Gary Lineker, Micah Richards and Ian Wright appear to have really embraced female ex-footballers as colleagues and these public displays of male support and authentic allyship are so crucial in the battle for gender and racial equality. I sincerely hope that the progress that we have seen in female sports presenting and punditry since 2016 will continue.
Who knows? Maybe we’ll even have a female commentator by the next World Cup. Steady on old girl.
You can read the full article on The Guardian website here.