Munster radio stations criticised for lack of female artists

Munster radio stations criticised for lack of female artists

As part of the Why Not Her campaign, leading gender and diversity equality advocate in the music industry, Linda Coogan Byrne, compiled data from June to December 2020 on the top 20 most played songs by Irish artists on radio stations across the country.

Munster radio stations are among the worst in the country when it comes to Irish female artists getting airplay compared to their male peers, a new report has found.

As part of the Why Not Her campaign, leading gender and diversity equality advocate in the music industry, Linda Coogan Byrne, compiled data from June to December 2020 on the top 20 most played songs by Irish artists on radio stations across the country.

The data-driven findings are a "staggering and shocking display of an industry model that still needs drastic changes", Ms Coogan Byrne said, especially in regional radio.

In a blistering indictment of the radio scene, she said: "The Irish music landscape is not a homogenised male scene but it is run by men in suits who refuse to get with the times."

As one of the industries hit the hardest by Covid-19, one of the key ways an artist can make revenue is airplay royalties, Ms Coogan Byrne said.

"We cannot stand by and continue to allow womxn and people of colour to be excluded from equal pay and opportunities," she added.

Womxn is a term used to be inclusive of trans and nonbinary women.

It is the second such report compiled by Ms Coogan Byrne. National and Dublin-based stations had improved their gender parity in airplay for Irish artists, as well as diversity, which went from a shockingly low base of just one artist of colour receiving chart airplay in the previous six months to 11 in the latest six-month period.

Munster stations

However, Cork-based radio stations such as 96FM, C103 and Red FM were among those named as having room to dramatically improve.

According to the report, 96FM and C103 had just 10% and 5% respectively of Irish female artists in the most-played between June and December.

Red FM had just 10% of Irish female artists in the most-played between June and December, the report found.

In Limerick, Live 95 had just 15% of Irish female artists in the top 20 most-played between June and December.

96FM and C103 group station director Kieran McGeary and Live 95 station director Joe Nash both acknowledged the findings and vowed to improve.

The stations would "continually strive to improve our diversity while balancing our licence requirements and the preferences of our audience" highlighted through significant investment in ongoing music research, they said. 

According to the report, Clare FM had just 10% of Irish female artists in the top 20 most-played between June and December, while Tipp FM did not even register a single percentage point.

Radio Kerry had just 10%, while South East Radio had just 5%.

Despite attempts, the Irish Examiner was not successful in receiving replies from those radio stations.

The south-east's Beat 102-103 was among the biggest improvements regionally over six months, going to 35%.

Limerick-based station Spin South West and Waterford-based WLR showed marked improvements in the past six months, according to the report, with 40% and 25% women respectively in the most played acts.

Composer, conductor and producer Eimear Noone said the report shows "concerted and sweeping action" is needed to redress the huge disparity.

We can create music in a vacuum, but a creative professional cannot sustain a professional career without support and real structure in the music industry. Worse still, it’s hard to keep your creative heart, mind and soul healthy when your voice is unheard, unheeded, ignored.

Chair of Women on Air, Roisin Duffy said the data speaks for itself.

“Women make up more than half of our population and that should be reflected on our airwaves, whether that is through our commentators, or musicians," she said.

Dr Susan Liddy, chair of Women in Film and Television Ireland, said: “The WFT board is disheartened to learn of the gender disparity in a significant number of Irish radio stations as revealed in the Why Not Her report. Thankfully, it’s becoming increasingly unacceptable to demonstrate such a blatant disregard for gender balance in the arts and elsewhere."

Singer-songwriter and chair of the Irish Music Rights Organisation, Eleanor McEvoy, said that while it is terrific to see the huge strides that some stations have made, "it’s very disappointing to see the lack of gender balance and diversity that still exists on so many stations". 

It’s sad that so many listeners to radio in Ireland are still missing out on hearing female voices on air.

Singer-songwriter Aoife Scott said there was no excuse not to have similar improvements across all radio stations.

“Change can come quicker than it is, notable credit to the Irish radio stations that lead the way in gender balance and diversity. They highlight that there is no reason not to have this mirrored across the country and across the Irish music industry giving women and diverse voices an audience and recognition."

Whilst it's hopeful to see these changes happen, there is so much more work to do, and so many more female voices waiting to be heard, Ms Scott added.

Karen Power, chair of Sounding The Feminists said that while there is some light shown with increases across most of the stations, given the alarming imbalance shown in the first report, more significant progress should have been made in the past six months.

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