Global media monitoring: Women in the news
By Dafne Sabanes Plou
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA, 20 February 2006
Does it make sense to monitor information about women that is published or transmitted through by the media? Is the image that media construct of women important? In what way does it influence our social imaginary for women to almost always appear in the news as victims and rarely as experts on subjects of political, social and economic relevance?
It was in Bangkok, in 1994, during the world conference “Women empower communications”, organised by the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC), with the support of Isis International in Manila and the International Women’s Tribune Centre of New York, that the project to realise a global monitoring of print media got underway. The goal was to obtain certain data on the presence of women in the news and the image transmitted by said media of half the world’s population.
Hence the World Media Monitoring Project was launched for the first time in 1995 and was repeated with major participation of groups and volunteers from all over the world in both 2000 and 2005. The objective is to monitor communications media during 24 hours, on the same date, in the largest number of countries as possible in order to chronicle how the various ways in which women participate in the political, economic, social and cultural lives of their countries – or fail to do so – is depicted. Moreover, the data and information that tell us of the condition and position they currently occupy in society are also of interest. The images that are transmitted are considered, because when multiplied in newspapers, magazines and audiovisual media, they construct models of womanhood that, although far from reality, tend to be idealised.
In 1995 and 2000, media monitoring reached some 70 countries and some 15,000 news stories were analysed at each opportunity, resulting in more that 50 000 data records. Although the results were scarcely auspicious – only 17-18% of news stories had women as protagonists – this study helped in explaining different facets of media information management that are ultimately discriminatory against women.
Another interesting point is that the global monitoring is carried out by volunteers from different communication and social organisations that are willing to take a critical look at the main newspapers of their countries and to critically consider the messages that they hear and see in audiovisual media. Following the indications provided to each group by WACC and associated entities, the organisations are in a position to complete forms with the required information. This is done in such a way that the results can be compared with previous monitoring efforts and with those of other countries.
In 2005, the 16th of February was the date chosen to carry out this global monitoring. The WACC made the results of the monitoring known on February 16th, 2006 and thus launched three action weeks to raise awareness on the treatment that women receive in the media and the information disseminated about them. These three days of activism will come to a close on March 8th, International Women’s Day. This campaign is supported by UNIFEM and UNESCO, as well as other global organisations such as, Amnesty International, Article 19, and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).
The results of the 2005 global monitoring were made public during a press conference that was held at the WACC’s London headquarters. This was be followed by roundtables evaluating the results and discussions on the role of media. Afterward, the programme for the three weeks of action will be launched, which will include seminars, workshops, panels, and conferences dedicated to the subject in different parts of the world.
WACC is an international Christian organisation, created in 1975, which considers that genuine communication is the basis for understanding amongst peoples, different cultures and religions. It promotes freedom of expression and information, as well as the democratisation of communications. WACC is made up of 850 organisational and personal members from 115 countries.