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Naughten prepared to bring in gender quotas for Irish radio

A report on gender and broadcasting is due in December or January – Naughten said that if it recommends quotas, he will support this.

Image: Shutterstock/Bolyuk Rostyslav

COMMUNICATIONS MINISTER DENIS Naughten is prepared to introduce gender quotas for Irish radio stations if recommended in a forthcoming report.

Minister Naughten, whose powers cover public service broadcasters such as RTÉ and TG4, said that the quotas could even be extended to commercial stations if the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland was willing to connect them to licensing agreements.

The BAI and Minister Naughten’s department are currently awaiting the results of research undertaken by Dr Kevin Rafter on gender and broadcasting in Ireland.

“I am prepared to act and follow through on any of the recommendations that come within the remit of my own department,” Naughten told TheJournal.ie this week. He said that this may include quotas – an issue he had changed his own thinking on in recent years.

In 2015, a report into gender representation on Irish radio found that female voices only make up an average of 28% of broadcasting time on current affairs shows. A recent look at Irish radio found that two national broadcasters, Today FM and Newstalk, have no women on air between 7am and 7pm, Monday to Friday.

“I am someone who was opposed to quotas in politics and changed my view on it. I was a member of the Oireachtas Justice Committee a few years ago, and following the hearings I felt that we didn’t have any choice but to bring in quotas in relation to politics and it has worked well,” he said.

“We have some very, very capable young politicians, female politicians, in Leinster House now. And I’m looking forward to them getting real opportunities in ministerial roles in the years to come. And I think they can really do and have a big impact as role models.

“And I think : do we need to see that in broadcasting as well? Yes, I think we do.”

broadcast 386_90517176 Minister Naughten. Source: Sam Boal

He said he believes this is something that the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications can also look at. The committee “is looking at how we would use the licence fee, how we would raise funding, how we would spend it, do we look at public service journalism and not just broadcasting”.

“And could there be conditions then put in on that in relation to the gender quota issue, all that can be looked at in that context and I am quite willing to look at it,” said Naughten.

He does not have powers in relation to commercial radio, but explained: “But if commercial radio was getting some funding in relation to the TV licence or the replacement TV licence, that could be maybe a condition that could be put in on it. But is there the possibility to explore aspects? Absolutely.”

He said that gender quotas could be recommended as part of the licensing conditions, and that would be a matter for the BAI to look at.

Naughten described the way gender quotas were introduced in politics as “quite innovative”.

Quotas were set for the number of women that parties have to put on the ballot papers.

“So it gives people the choice, then it’s up to them to make the decision who they want to represent them,” said the Minister. “So I’m looking forward to seeing what Kevin Rafter comes back with, see if he comes up with something innovative, that can work in a uniquely Irish situation.”

The report is due out in December or January.

Hearing voices: Read our in-depth look at the state of gender balance and Irish radio at 11am today on TheJournal.ie.

Read: Plan to get more women on airwaves ‘welcome’ – but progress could take years>

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