Girls just wanna: female representation at Newstalk

Alison Rothwell

Credit: Laura Duffy The lesser heard female voices of Newstalk

Dublin based station Newstalk FM, has been deemed a “misogynistic” radio station by an Irish Times columnist due to its lack of female presenters, and the recent firing of a long time female presenter at the station.

Fintan O’Toole, a columnist with the Irish Times, has spoken out alleging gender imbalance and misogyny, directly referencing recent comments on rape blame made by presenter George Hook. He also spoke out against the firing of a prominent female presenter. 

“When all else about this business is forgotten, what will be remembered by aspiring journalists is that George Hook is still working for Newstalk and that Dil Wickremasinghe is not” O’Toole said. 

Dil presented a Saturday night radio show “Global Village”, which was considered to be a voice for diverse people in society. She released a statement last week stating that: “despite her positive ratings and performance” her show had been cancelled.

An insider at Newstalk said: “the number of women that have come and gone is nearly too many to count. I think the show line ups speak for themselves really.” There are currently four radio shows with female presenters at the station, and these shows are at off-peak times at the weekends.

A second Newstalk insider said, “There are some really good female presenters working here, like Sarah McInerney, but I’m honestly not sure why they decided to change up the presenters to a more male based group.” Sarah McInerney was recently moved from presenting the drive-time show to a Saturday morning slot.

I spoke to Dil and she said: “previously management brought me in and said they were considering cancelling my show because I didn’t have a sponsor. My show meant so much to me, I pounded the pavement and found a sponsor. This time around there was no consultation.”

“The response to the cancellation of my show says it all. I’ve been inundated with emails, calls and tweets.” she said when discussing her disbelief over the cancellation of her show.

Veteran broadcaster George Hook was suspended after a staff letter was sent to management with 20 signatures, asking that he be taken off air, after he commented on UK rape case saying, “Is there no blame now to the person who puts themselves in danger?”.

In protest to Hook’s comments, Dil went off air, but returned the following week, “we drew a line under it” she said.

A Communicorp insider said “The on-air lack of women voices needs to be addressed but there is nothing that comes close to resembling systemic sexism in Newstalk. O’Toole was bang out of order.”

“There is loads of female representation as producers and researchers, and the senior management at Communicorp is predominantly female. I don’t understand how this doesn’t transfer to air” Dil said. 

Dil added “I am very grateful to Newstalk for giving me my big break. My biggest worry is how this will look for aspiring journalists, and how it will look to young women coming into the industry who will be afraid to ask the difficult questions.”

Alison Rothwell