Who makes the news in Europe?

  on May 13, 2013

Main findings of the European Observatory on Gender Representation (OERG)


by Monia Azzalini

  • Women journalists are quite often on screen in the European TV channels, but the awaited effect of a 'critical mass' is glimpsed only in Spain.
  • Women, in one way or the other, are still ‘under-rated’ by the European news programmes.


Men are still making the news: 3011 out of 4213 people coded in 2012. Women are less than one third of news subjects and/or people interviewed by the European news programmes: 29%. Just 24% in Italy. The results, in both cases, remained the same of 2011. 

Only newscasts in Spain and France have a women's visibility above the average, with percentages of women in the news of 37% (4 points more than that recorded in 2011) and 33% respectively. 

In all cases, younger women are more often newsworthy. Women comprise 45% of the age group under 18 years, 44% of the age group between 19 and 34 years. On the other hand, women over 50 years are less than one every 4 men: 19% in the age group 50-64 and 17% in the age group over 64 years. 

As in 2011, women receive little coverage by political information programmes, with a 20% of representation. Italy is the country with the lowest women's presence in the political news stories (13%), followed by England and Germany (19%) and, at a distance, by Spain (28%) and France (34%). 

In all monitored TV channels, a clear dichotomy across men's and women's roles is noted, with women taking up mainly less important roles as unknown or ordinary persons and men the most significant roles based on professional competences. 


Women receive a relatively balanced coverage across ordinary people (48%), story tellers about personal experiences (44%) and witnesses of events (38%); while they enjoy little coverage (20% on average) across news subjects, experts/opinion makers, spokespersons (of political parties, institutions, organisations).

In this respect, Italy is the country with the highest gender imbalance: only 14% of the experts interviewed by Italian newscasts are women (the remaining 86% of experts are men). On the other hand, women are 38% of ordinary persons' opinions.

The most popular professionals appearing on the European news programmes are men:
- women are only 16% of the 1018 politicians coded,
- women are 14% of the 214 business persons, executives, managers, entrepreneurs, economists,
- women are 8% of the 208 representatives of law enforcement bodies (police),
- women are 14% of the 186 sportspersons.

Women, vice versa, have quite a balanced coverage (47%) across people whose profession or social status is not mentioned, because irrelevant for the news story itself.

Italian newscasts are characterised by the extensive amount of politicians as news subjects (about a third of the overall sample), men in 88% of the cases.

Another peculiarity of the Italian news programmes - as well as of the British ones - is the huge amount of people featuring as subjects for news stories because victims of crimes or violence (10% of the sample). However, whilst on BBC and ITV the proportion of women and men is similar (13% of women and 14% of men), the percentage of women as victims on Italian news programmes is 17% against 8% of men. No other European country records such an imbalance.

Women and men making or presenting news have apparently comparable conditions. ‘Apparently’, that is according to the findings on the visibility of the journalists (on screen, voice or author of the news story), focus of this research, and not based on official statistics about the compositions of the editorial boards.

47% of the newscasts are presented by women journalists. Italy, with a percentage of 58% - stable figure compared to last year's findings - has rates above the European average, confirming a long term trend of favouring journalists in this role.

Also women journalists as correspondents or authors of news stories are numerous: 49% on average - stable rates compared to 2011. Italy records a percentage in line with the average (48%), Spain has rates considerably beyond the average with 68% of women journalists, France has rates just below the average (44%), Germany and England have rates well below the average, 35% and 28% of women journalists respectively.

The study investigates various aspects of the news stories, included the focus on female subjects: only 4% of women, as individuals or group, are central to the news, compared to 8% in 2011.

Most of the news stories with women central to the news (55%) are edited by women journalists, in line with the rates recorded in 2011 (56%), thus confirming the trend seen in the last edition of the Global Media Monitoring Project (2010) where a wider and better female representation was noted within the news stories edited by women. In Spain, 8 news stories out of 10 with women central to the news are edited by women journalists.


The findings of this study are based on the second year of the OERG (European Observatory on Gender Representations) media monitoring, launched by the Osservatorio di Pavia on 17 January 2011 and built on the model of the Global Media Monitoring Project.

The study focused on the news programmes broadcast during pick time hours by the two main TV channels (the most popular public and private TV channels in terms of their relevance within the media system and their audience rates) of France, Germany, England, Italy and Spain: France 2 and TF 1, Ard and RTL, BBC One and ITV 1, Rai Uno and Canale 5, TVE and Telecinco.

12 news editions have been monitored for each TV channel, one per month, rotating each time the day of the week.

The research investigated: who makes the news in the newscasts (persons interviewed and persons whom the story is about), who presents and edits the news stories in the newscasts (female and male presenters, female and male journalists, correspondents and/or authors of the news stories), how the news stories are shaped, in a gender perspective. For further information:


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May 13, 2013
Categories:  What's New

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