women in the arts and media

women in the arts and media
   Women have reached many influential positions in the Arts and Media over the last twenty years. Although they have a long way to go to achieve parity of representation with men, they hold top administrative positions in broadcasting organizations like the BBC and ITV, and are very visible in print media.
   In performing arts, Britain displays a stunning range of talent. Emma Thompson and Helena Bonham Carter are well known actors, but numerous other versatile women take on roles beyond those called for by the ‘Merchant-Ivory’ version of Britain. These include Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Mike Leigh’s Secrets and Lies) and Kathy Burke (Gary Oldman’s Nil by Mouth). Among Britain’s many women directors are Margaret Tait and Beeban Kidron, and the concerns of both actors and directors goes well beyond ‘women’s agendas’.
   Examples of influential younger journalists are Julie Burchill, who writes for the Sunday Times, and Cristina Odone, the deputy editor of the New Statesman. Radio has offered opportunities to women far beyond their traditional toehold of Woman’s Hour. Radio 4’s respected Analysis programme is often presented by eminent women, as have been the Reith Lectures. Libby Purvis presents Mid Week on Radio 4. Anna Ford co-presents the Today programme. However, television is probably where women are most in evidence and most successful. News presenters like Julia Somerville and Katie Derham receive six-figure salaries. The ex-BBC presenter Kirsty Young, Channel 5’s news presenter, at age twenty-nine earns £750,000. Television’s first woman presenter, Angela Rippon, earned little more than a teacher. In ‘serious’ television, current regulars on the Late Show include Sarah Dunant and Germaine Greer. An older generation of women from Mavis Nicholson to Esther Rantzen secured the television bridgehead, but arguably American imports, such as Oprah Winfrey’s chat show and alternative women comedians like Penny Arcade and (UK resident) Ruby Wax have supplied powerful role models for women in British television. Relatively young female presenters on television include Magenta De Vine on BBC2’s Rough Guide travel programme and Caroline Hook with her popular chat show Mrs Merton. Gaby Roslin, who used to present The Big Breakfast with Chris Evans, has her own show.
   People complain that many of the women who have succeeded on television have done so because of their looks. Ulrika Jonsson (Gladiators) and Anna Ford (newsreader) are cited in this context; but television stations deny it is a determining factor.

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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