Veronica Walsh asks if Irish current affairs media programs discriminate against women
So, we know there is a gender imbalance across Irish society. And it was brought home to us in screaming technicolour last week when Joan Burton was publicly humiliated and passed over for the cabinet finance brief that many believe was hers by right. Which got us all thinking and talking… though it’s dying down as an issue now, and we’ll go back to acceptance and same old same old. Before we do – I’d like to share a little exchange that Sara Burke had with Eamon Dunphy on Dunphy’s Sunday morning current affairs show yesterday.
The panel that morning was made up of Eamon, Philip O’Connor, Alan Dukes, Emmet Oliver, and the lone woman Sara Burke. although I suppose we were lucky to have even her, as it is not unheard of for this show not to feature even one woman on the panel. I’ll set the scene…. some way into the show the conversation turns to the pieces by Diarmaid Ferriter, Mick Clifford and Shane Ross in the Sunday newspapers – all suggesting that Burton was shafted. Eamon agrees and says it appears to be discriminatory – and Sara says she is ‘incensed’ at it etc – only Alan Dukes dismisses it as nonsense (quelle surprise! Oh what is it about him that makes me speak French?!). So, okay, grand… chat chat chat, blah blah blah…. THEN, after Eamon declares that “such discrimination weakens our democracy”, Sara puts it up to him that he himself discriminates against women and only features occasional ‘token women’ on his show. Good woman yourself, Sara!
So, what did he say? Um. I’m not sure. Here’s the exchange verbatim:
Sara Burke: “Eamon, the issue of gender equality isn’t confined to Dáil Éireann, it’s across society, it’s in this studio…”
Eamon Dunphy: “Let me tell you Sara, I go… and have done as a journalist… to inordinate lengths in the teams that I construct as a radio… ‘cause I’m the boss, I run the thing, I’m the editor of the program… in terms of getting guests, in terms of getting people and promoting women, eh, it is a problem when you go…”
Sara interrupts: “there’s often weeks when there’s no women on your panel and…”
Dunphy cuts her off: “There are weeks when, well, I’ll tell you why…”
Sara cuts him off: “There’s often just the token one, as I am today…”
Dunphy answers: “No, no you’re not. I’ll tell you why… that is… and I’ll be unequivocal about it, the qualification for being in this radio studio on a Sunday morning with me is intelligence. And honesty, probity. I won’t have spoofers, I won’t have token people, and I won’t have spinners in the studio. And in all the times. we’ve got 52 and a half percent more listeners than we had when we started because of that principal, and I think it should apply everywhere… no tokenism at all! We’ll take an ad-break now, and we’ll come back and talk some more….”
(to listen back go here - 31 minutes in….)
The programme returned from an ad break, and he read out a couple of texts then moved on to talk about something else, abandoning the discussion.
But I’d like us to look at it again. Do we agree with Sara? Why do we accept that this is just how it is? What do we think of Dunphy’s reply? What’s he on about? It’s a pity he didn’t expand on his “it is a problem when you go….”. It’s a shame he never addressed the main question of why he appears to discriminate against women on his panel, instead waffling into a defence of his show against the idea he’d allow tokenism, and then escaping to a break and a change of subject.
l searched for data on the panels for the last few months from the programme’s twitter timeline at @thedunphyshow, and lay it out starkly (see list below). There was no woman last week. There was no woman on the double election special panels the week before. In the preceding weeks there was either no woman or one woman on a panel of four men.
So what do you think? Discrimination? Is it any better on other prime time current affairs shows on radio and TV? Is it time we said enough is enough, and demanded some kind of gender balance be applied in the media pundit world?
Veronica Walsh is the organiser of the Dublin Current Affairs Group & MD of www.CBTandFeelingGood.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @VCurrentAffairs.
LIST OF PUNDIT PANELS ON THE DUNPHY SHOW FOR THE LAST FEW MONTHS ( women in bold):
March 13th: Joining Eamon on the panel today are : Alan Dukes, Emmet Oliver, Sara Burke and Philip O’ Connor.
March 6th: Joining Eamon on the panel today are Dan O’ Brien, Constantin Gurdgiev, Shane Ross and Ed Molloy.
February 27th: Joining Eamon on the panle form 11-1 are Pat Leahy, Eddie Hobbs, Cormac Lucey and Ger Colleran. The Political panel up first on The Dunphy Show: Pat Rabbitte, Leo Varadker, Shane Ross and Psephologist Adrian Kavanagh.
February 20th: Joining Eamon on the panel today: Donal Donovan, Constantin Gurdgiev, Dearbhail McDonald and John Waters.
February 13th: Joining Eamon on the panel today are Sean Kelly, David Humphreys, Chris Luke and John Allen.
February 6th: Joining Eamon on the panel today is Alistair Campbell, Cormac Lucey, Jim Power and Noirin Hegarty.
January 30th: Joining Eamon on the panel this morning are Eamon Ryan, Orla Tinsley, Constantin Gurdgiev and Pearse Doherty.
January 23rd: Joining Eamon on the panel this morning are Damien Kiberd, Pat Leahy, Siobhan O’Connell and Senator Shane Ross.
January 16th: Joining Eamon on the panel this morning are Jill Kerby, Dearbhail McDonald, Ger Colleran and Brian Lucey.
January 19th: Sunday panel: James Reilly FG, Paul Somerville Markets Analyst, Pat Leahy, Lindsey Earner Byrne UCD.
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