Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Scotland Tonight team member calls me a troll after I complain about all male programme

Update: Shortly after I posted this, I went out for the day and have just returned. I am pleased to say that Peter has contacted me and made a genuine and sincere apology which is to his credit. He says that he intended his reply to be tongue in cheek and not to cause offence. I'm not very good at holding grudges, so that, as far as I'm concerned, is an end to it. 

For what it's worth, as I say below, it probably was one of these thoughtless late night tweets, made without any bad intent. I don't believe that he went out of his way to try to upset me, but this is a lesson to all of us, myself included, that we have to be careful in not just what we say, but how we say it. And putting a smiley on something doesn't make it funny. 

When Scotland Tonight first came on the air, it was a bit of a revolution in late night current affairs telly. It seemed refreshing compared to the rather tired and stale Newsnight Scotland format. They had the social media side cracked too. I mean, they actually interacted with their followers and listened to what they had to say. In fact, once I tweeted their account mid afternoon to see if they'd cover the No More Page 3 petition which had just been set up. They were great. They asked me who to contact and that very night, Lucy Anne Holmes was featured.

Sadly, standards have slipped a bit. Too often they resort to discussion between the usual male suspects and too often it's not just an all male panel, but an all male programme.

Last night's was one such sorry example. It featured:

  • John Mackay (presenter)
  • Item about independence referendum polls: Discussion with Professor John Curtice and Colin Mackay
  • Item about Bill Walker: Discussion with Colin Mackay and Willie Rennie
  • Item about Australian elections: John McTernan. 

They didn't even think it was worth getting a woman in from Zero Tolerance or NUS Scotland to talk about their Bill Walker protest outside Holyrood at 1pm today. Willie Rennie, to his credit, mentioned it and said he was going (as am I).

So, I complained about the all male programme as I and other women often do, on Twitter. It attracted a few retweets.

What I found particularly exasperating, though, was the fact that all the tweets that they read out from viewers on the programme were from men, too. At that point I got Twitter accounts and hashtags mixed up and tweeted this.

Anyway, after some discussion, I went to bed and thought no more of it. When I woke up this morning, I found this in my timeline:

Peter seemed to be part of the production team because he'd also joined in a discussion with myself, Christine Jardine and Susan Stewart. A bit of googling found him presenting a You Tube preview of a programme last November, ironically introducing another all male programme:

I am sure that this was an off-the-cuff late night comment after a hard day at work, but, even so, it's out of order. Kate Higgins is pretty fair about most things, and she said:

When people hear the word troll these days, because of the abuse and threats dished out to people like Caroline Criado-Perez and Mary Beard, they associate it with someone who threatens violence, or tells people there's a bomb outside their house, or makes vile and abusive comments. To use it to describe someone who is making measured and reasonable critique of the programme where you work is quite bizarre.

There was an occasion before, when there were a spate of similar complaints about gender balance, they had an all female panel - to discuss gender balance. I would respectfully suggest to the production team that they think about the title of their programme. It's not "Holyrood Tonight", or "Scottish Men Tonight" so they really need to think about reflecting all of Scotland. A studio containing only men discussing the issues of the day is not a good look and it's actually reducing their audience.

All the contributors to the programme last night were perfectly interesting and I'm not saying that they shouldn't ever be on. The producers need to look at the whole programme, though. Does it appeal to the whole of the audience, or just half?

Earlier this year, Mark Pack said that he wouldn't take part in panels that were all male. I wonder if this is something that more politicians and commentators should think about. Here's what Mark had to say:
The idea is to change the balance on what is easy for a panel organiser to do. Often the easy option is to go for the ‘obvious’ names, which helps perpetuate the male dominance (out of kilter with a majority female electorate and a close to 50/50 party membership balance). However, once organisers know that people will say no if they’re lining up a list of just men, then the easy option is to go for a balanced option.
This is no miracle cure. There are many other issues that need addressing too, and many issues of equality that are not about gender.
But it is a simple step that can help – help set a different tone at conference, help set a different example to people in the party as to who is welcome to participate and help highlight to those looking for Lib Dem names to participate on occasions outside party conference that there are plenty of women they could ask too. Indeed the organisers are very likely not choosing the best people if they just choose men!
 Mark's approach isn't going to solve the problem at a stroke, but it's a useful contribution.

So, Scotland Tonight, it's time to widen your list of contacts. Let's see more of the Dani Garavellis, Lorraine Davidsons, Christine Jardines, Natalie McGarrys and Kate Higgins of this world, please. You need to reflect all of Scotland, not just the Holyrood Bubble.


Jennie Rigg said...

Even if they want to stay sexist, can they not just have less John Curtice on? I've never known someone so politically inept be so feted just because he's got letters after his name. It drives me mad when they have him on election night special as well.

scotto voce said...

Agree that Scotland tonight has been a breath of fresh air in Scottish news. and I was one of the ones campaigning last year for them to feature more women. they listened and they did. But we need to be eternally vigilant, as last night shows. As for Peter, I've always found him decent, courteous and a professional. Decent of him to apologise to you and I'm sure he meant no offence,


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