Irish radio stations urged to implement plans to tackle gender disparity in playlists

Irish radio stations urged to implement plans to tackle gender disparity in playlists

Irish female artists like Denise Chaila are getting more airplay after data collected from Irish radio stations between June and December 2020 found that 85% of the top 20 most played songs were performed by male musicians. 

Radio stations in Ireland have been urged by equality campaigners to implement comprehensive data-driven plans to counteract the glaring gender disparity of musicians receiving airplay.

The Why Not Her campaign compiled data from June to December 2020 on the top 20 most played songs by Irish artists on radio stations across the country, finding that 85% of artists in the top 100 airplay charts across all stations were male.

Munster radio stations were among the worst in the country for when it comes to Irish female artists getting airplay compared to their male peers.

Led by music industry consultant Linda Coogan Byrne, global development executive Bernadette Sexton, and researcher and academic Dr Brenda Donohue, Why Not Her has now launched an action plan for Irish radio stations to implement in order to tackle the inequality.

The campaign’s data-led researcher concluded that audiences want to hear more womxn on the radio, and that artists wanted and needed it.

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

Irish radio stations now have an “exciting opportunity to become a global leader” by playing more high-quality music by womxn, the Why Not Her campaign said.

In order to do so, radio organisations need to commit to equal representation on air, regular reporting of reliable data with measurable targets, and a commitment to be leaders and champions of change within organisations, according to the plan developed by the campaign.

The first pillar of the plan involves radio station leaders committing to change, Why Not Her said.

“Leadership should set out key metrics as part of its organisational strategy and integrate regular reporting on progress into management meetings,” it outlined.

This would involve appointing committed key sponsors at a senior level, such as a chief executive, to demonstrate a shift in culture.

Progress on diversity commitments should be communicated both formally through the likes of board meetings and annual reports, as well as informally through the likes of team meetings and company-wide emails.

Data-driven decision-making should form the second pillar of action, the plan said.

“Data can be a powerful tool to change behaviours. Look at what the following national, regional and commercial radio stations have done since the publication of the first Gender Disparity Data Report back in June 2020.

“Six months on and RTÉ 2fm are now at 40% parity, Spin 103.8 at 45% parity and Beat FM at 35% parity. Proving that Irish radio has the opportunity and ability to enact structural change that benefits us all, if it chooses to. Radio teams can monitor and evaluate its own initiatives, use quality data to make decisions, and have a baseline against which to measure progress and drive improvements.” 

Qualitative data sources are readily available across the music industry, it said.

The third pillar of the plan involves shifting a sense of change across leaders and managers, Why Not Her said.

“Shifts in culture should be encouraged and enabled by all staff,” it added.

Radio stations in Munster have indicated their commitment to change on the back of the plan being published by Why Not Her.

Head of music at Beat FM, Niall Power, said: “We made a conscious effort in 2020 to support emerging Irish female artists. I’m pleased to see our figures increase from 5% to 35% since the last report.

“It’s also very important to us that these are primetime plays so the artists are reaching as big an audience as possible. Variety and diversity matter. It’s been made somewhat easier by the quality of artists coming through like Denise Chaila, Lea Heart, Sophie Doyle Rider and Waterford’s Carrie Baxter.” 

Head of music at Radio Kerry, Elaine Kinsella, said: "Radio Kerry is committed to increasing airtime for new Irish female artists and will undertake regular self-assessment to ensure the same.”

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