Newstalk takes a Right Hook for gender balance

Hearing Women’s Voices radio report shows females simply not being allowed on air

Male voices make up 72 per cent of news and current affairs radio broadcasting time, a new survey has found, with Newstalk’s leading news and current affairs programmes the worst offenders.

The most balanced show on weekdays on radio was RTÉ Radio 1's Today With Seán O'Rourke with 59 per cent male voices, followed by Morning Ireland with 67 per cent.

However, 86 per cent of those interviewed on Newstalk's Breakfast show with Ivan Yates and Chris Donoghue are men, while its evening drivetime programme The Right Hook fills 81 per cent of its interviews with men.

Minister for Communications Alex White launches the Hearing Women's Voices report examining the contribution of women on air during peak-time hours on Tuesday.


The study by Dublin City University and the National Women's Council was funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. It was completed across three weeks last year.

Station to station

The breakdown across the three radio stations examined is 28 per cent female voices and 72 per cent male voices.

There are 63 per cent male voices on RTÉ Radio, 70 per cent on Today FM and 82 per cent on Newstalk.

RTÉ Radio 1 has an equal number of male and female presenters during the week, but all Newstalk’s presenters on its leading programmes are men.

Most guests (73 per cent to 67 per cent) and experts (85 per cent to 79 per cent) are male across all stations, filling up to 80 per cent of the slots during the three weeks monitored, the survey shows.

Seven in 10 voices on politics are male; nearly 75 per cent talking about economics are men. On sports, three-quarters of voices talking about sport are men – though Newstalk manages to hit the 95 per cent mark.

Health an exception

Female voices are heard less frequently on science and technology, sports and war/conflict, but the imbalance is reversed during health interviews on RTÉ, where men take up 42 per cent of the slots. However, even here, Newstalk has two-thirds of such interviews with men.

Men also get more time. Some 20 per cent of time on RTÉ Radio 1 is devoted to female news subjects, with 25 per cent on Newstalk.

Female guests take up 33 per cent of on-air time allocated to guests on RTÉ Radio 1, 30 per cent on Today FM and 27 per cent on Newstalk.

Some 26 per cent of reporters’ time is provided by women on RTÉ Radio 1. The equivalent figure for Newstalk is 15 per cent female.

Dr Kathy Walsh, Dr Jane Suiter and Orla O'Connor, the authors of the survey, also observed production practices across two current affairs radio programmes.

While all of those interviewed were conscious of gender balance as an issue, “it did not appear to be a significant consideration in terms of either the stories selected or indeed who was/is selected for interview by either programme”, the report found.

National Women’s Council director Orla O’Connor said the report shows there is significant room for improvement.

“All radio stations have work to do to achieve a minimum target of 30 per cent female experts and ideally a 40:60 gender balance among guests and experts.”

The report recommends radio programmes appoint someone with responsibility for monitoring gender breakdown, and the BAI includes a section on gender equality in annual reports to all stations.