For five days, starting from 5 February 2018, journalism website IndiaSpend counted the number of men and women who appeared as panelists on debates on 10 English news channels, between 8 pm to 10 pm.
The results were extreme. There were four times more men than women in these debates.
This is just a statistical corroboration of a widely known fact: Women’s opinions are very explicitly disregarded. A woman’s opinions, no matter how correct, are not deemed worthy enough to be aired on TV. Especially not worthy enough to be viewed by the misogynist news-viewing male population of India, a fact that journalist Sagarika Ghose very aptly stated in one line in an interview with the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism in Oxford, ‘”There’s a belief among TV news managers in India that news audiences are “mostly male who prefer to get opinions from men rather than women.”
As the study states, women are summoned only to get their ‘expert’ opinions on gender issues like tax on sanitary napkins or some female politician’s hearty laugh in the upper house. The absence (or tiny just-for-the-sake-of-it presence) of female panelists to discuss non-gender based issues points out the misogyny that is ingrained throughout this country.
Let us take the fresh example of the Nirav Modi corruption case. Arnab Goswami was obviously present to orchestrate a discussion on the incident. As he was vomiting adverbs to introduce the people on his Sunday debate, the camera suddenly panned on to the panelists. There were in total seven debaters. All men. Because why should one even think about inviting a woman (or women) on a panel that discusses the biggest corruption scam of the country as of 2018? It is not like Nirav Modi committed a fraud of stealing pink pad-shaped handbags for his wife that one should invite a woman on the panel right?
In 2013, the BBC academy in London launched training for women who were experts in various fields and were interested in becoming media commentators. Around 2000 women showed up for the 24-seat availability.
What Indian media channels can do is take a page from BBC’s book and launch a similar program to train women. Train them accordingly, until they are seen boisterously shouting their mind like their male counterparts. Train them to the point where no one can say that ‘women are not aggressive enough for TV’. Train them, because their views matter. And it seems only aggressive toxic masculinity finds play on air.