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BBC pushes for 50:50 gender split among expert contributors across all news programmes within a year

By Charlotte Tobitt

The BBC has set itself a target of having a 50:50 gender split of expert voices in its news, current affairs and topical programmes by April 2019.

BBC News at Six and Ten have already signed up to the 50:50 challenge alongside more than 80 other programmes, both within the news division and beyond.

These teams are now recording their own figures to reveal the gender split among the experts called in to give their opinion on topical issues.

The challenge follows in the footsteps of Outside Source, a BBC news programme which adopted the self-monitoring system in January 2017.

By April last year it had achieved a 50:50 gender split, which it has since maintained.

Presenter Ros Atkins, the driving force in the project alongside former editor Rebecca Bailey, said: “When Outside Source started this project the aim was to further improve the quality of our programme and bring fresh and engaging expert contributors to our audiences.

“I’m delighted that other teams across the BBC are just as passionate about this as I am and we’ve seen fantastic results from those already adopting the monthly monitoring approach so far.

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“The ambition is to reach many more teams with the 50:50 challenge and ensure we have a strong network of contacts so we can increase the representation of expert female contributors on air.”

The BBC will produce a progress report on the project in April next year, according to BBC director of news Fran Unsworth.

She said: “We are starting to see a real transformation across the BBC, but we want to go further and faster.

“The success already delivered demonstrates the desire and commitment of BBC teams to lead the way on this important issue.

She added: “We can and are delivering change. The BBC is happy to share its experience of this project with other broadcasters and news organisations who might want to adopt a similar approach.”

The BBC explained that the quota does not include Government ministers, officials or representatives of organisations, but expert contributors “who comment or report on events or bring particular expertise to a news story or item”.

The gender split will be measured monthly for each programme, with the exception of those with a gender focus which “would not be expected to achieve a 50:50 balance because of the very nature of the programme’s editorial remit”.

Tony Hall, BBC director general, said: “This is a fantastic project that is already driving change. The results from programmes that have taken it up have been remarkable.

“Adopting it more widely will help transform the range of expert voices across the BBC.”

The BBC has already pledged to increase women on screen, on air and in lead roles to 50 per cent by 2020.

American academic and expert on Korean relations professor Robert Kelly made headlines when a video of his two young children gatecrashing his interview on BBC News (pictured) went viral.

Picture: BBC News/Screenshot

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