On Kiwi TV, men run the show

By Alice Neville

Alison Mau and Wendy Petrie. Photo / James Madelin
Alison Mau and Wendy Petrie. Photo / James Madelin

Male TV presenters outnumber their female counterparts by more than two to one in New Zealand, an informal survey has found.

The Herald on Sunday poll of primetime TV schedules across the main free-to-air networks over the past week found that 70 per cent of the main presenting roles were filled by men.

And although the top male broadcasters such as Simon Dallow, Mark Sainsbury, Mike McRoberts and John Campbell are all in their mid-40s, female presenters tend to be a decade younger.

Wendy Petrie, Pippa Wetzell, Miriama Kamo and Carolyn Robertson are all in their 30s, with Hilary Barry, 40, and Alison Mau, 44, the notable exceptions.

Diane Musgrave, television curriculum leader at AUT's Communications School, said men on TV are often perceived as being more convincing.

"Unfortunately I think our society still places a lot of credibility in the male message," said Musgrave.

"There is a perception that if you want it to be credible, it has to be delivered by a bloke. Women can front programmes that are aimed at women, but if they want it to appeal to a wider audience there seems to be a perception you've got to have a male person in there as well."

But Julie Christie, who is responsible for some of New Zealand's most successful TV programmes, reckons New Zealand has "the most equitable TV industry in the world".

"I think it goes in cycles," she said. "It's totally dependent on talent. Some shows suit females and some shows suit males."

TV3 news presenter Hilary Barry says the gender balance on New Zealand screens was better than across the Tasman.

"I've certainly seen that in Australia they'll have a geriatric male newsreader opposite a 20-year-old female. I think it's an insult to the audience."

Although she doesn't believe there is pressure on female presenters to stay eternally youthful, Barry admits viewers' preoccupation with her appearance does get tiresome.

"I get a lot of feedback on how I look and I can't deny that that does tick me off. That's something the men never have to deal with.

"People who dress up for a living expect that sort of thing, but I consider myself a journalist newsreader, not someone who's making fashion statements to be discussed."

Although both the 6pm news shows are fronted by a male-female duo, other news and current affairs programmes such as Close Up are almost always fronted by men, with Nightline an exception.

Entertainment shows - such as The Apprentice and The Crowd Goes Wild - are more often fronted by men.

A comprehensive study of UK television recently found women make up only a third of those featured in factual programming. It also found only one in four women on screen were aged over 40, compared to one in six men.

The study found that women accounted for 31 per cent of roles in news programming and when they did appear it was to discuss "softer" topics such as health, culture or cookery.

- Herald on Sunday

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