Former Justice Minister Judith Collins has told TVNZ bosses she wants its news bulletins to take women more seriously.

Her criticisms include showing too many women in the kitchen and in "lesser roles".

In the just-released annual review of TVNZ by Parliament's commerce committee, Collins joined calls from politicians Gareth Hughes and Clare Curran for the national broadcaster to address its attitude towards gender equality in its news coverage.

In the report the committee said, "We would like TVNZ's news items to feature less categorising of women."


And in an interview with the Herald on Sunday, Collins said: "There is nothing wrong with women being shown in the kitchen because that is what a lot of women do, but there should be less of a focus on this kind of thing.

"Another example is women tend to be described as 'mothers' in news coverage, irrespective of what job or other skills they might have. You rarely hear a man being described as a 'father'. It leads to a patronising attitude towards women and puts them in convenient boxes. This needs to be improved."

In February, TVNZ launched an online beauty contest among its blonde-haired, female presenters. It was dropped in the face of criticism and TVNZ bosses blamed the "Battle of the Blondes" - featuring Pippa Wetzell, Toni Street and Alison Pugh - on a new staff member.

An item on One News on Thursday, about what to wear to work, focused solely on women's fashion and featured a young, attractive, American woman talking about her outfits.

"That is quite typical," Collins said. "I'm not PC, but women are often categorised by their weight, looks and clothes and these get commented on, whereas men can come in all shapes and sizes and wear what they like, and no one cares.

"We all know some people are more attractive than others. We don't need someone to categorise this for us."

Other examples of stereotyping this week included a One News item on Monday about zero-hours contract workers. It featured an interview with a female hospital cleaner, who was also described as a mother, and included an image of a woman vacuuming screening behind presenter Simon Dallow.

Covering the same topic two nights later, the only worker interviewed was a young woman. Females were filmed serving burgers behind the counter, and their union boss was a middle-aged man.

"Too often, women are portrayed in the news as victims of circumstance or their roles in life tend to be stereotyped," Collins said. "Strong women are referred to as being strident or aggressive whereas strong men are simply referred to as being strong."

Collins believed TVNZ in general did "a good job" and its chief executive Kevin Kenrick had fronted gender-related questions from the committee well. But she expected changes to bring more gender equality to the news.

John Gillespie, TVNZ's head of news and current affairs, stressed gender diversity was taken seriously in its news and current affairs coverage.

"We are very conscious of how we portray many groups, including women, and we think we do a good job in this space," he said. "That said, there is always room for improvement."