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Women are under-represented on- and off-screen says EPRA report

The European Platform of Regulatory Authorities (EPRA) will present Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Mariya Gabriel with the report that examines the representation of women in the audiovisual media industry today.

The report on the representation of women in the audiovisual media industry published today follows the short working report that was discussed at the Digital4Her conference hosted by Commissioner Gabriel in June this year. Some of the preliminary findings of the EPRA Working Group on gender were presented to the participants, highlighting the role that regulators can play in promoting gender equality. The full report explores the on-screen portrayal of women, their off-screen representation, the role of  audiovisual regulators and existing good practices in different countries.

 "The report I received today from the European Platform of Regulatory Authorities – EPRA – shows clearly that women’s underrepresentation and misrepresentation is a serious problem in the European audiovisual media sector. For example, the report shows that women appear less on screen across a range of genres and are typically subject to more stereotypical and degrading portrayal than men. Also, in off-screen creative roles, women are generally underrepresented, but most significantly in senior and technical positions. We really need to address this challenge and I thank the European Platform of Regulatory Authorities for this valuable data which will help us to strengthen our actions across the EU for a gender balanced audiovisual sector." - Commissioner Mariya Gabriel

This report is based on a survey by EPRA, with a total of 31 responses from regulatory authorities (23 of them originate from EU countries and 8 from non-EU countries). The majority of regulatory bodies (26 out of 31) either conduct or are aware of research on the representation and portrayal of women in broadcasting in their country. They believe that there are too few women represented on television and some mentioned the lack of comprehensive research on this topic.


There are some interesting figures that come to light in this report based on research from various countries such as:

  • In France, women represent 42% on screen, dropping at 29% during peak time programming (FR CSA, 2017)
  •  On the Italian public service broadcaster, women are rarely central in programmes (RAI, 2015)
  •  In the UK, women aged 55 were seen less frequently on TV, while in Hungary the number of female presenters/hosts decreases by more than 60% above the age of 40
  •  In the French-speaking community of Belgium, 42% of female characters in adverts could be associated with a stereotype.

On-screen portrayal

Most of the research conducted on-screen portrayal focuses on the stereotypical depiction of women. Stereotyping is more prominent in news and current affairs where several regulators referred to existing qualitative research. It was also noted that women are less likely to appear as experts or in scientific or technical roles.

Off-screen representation

Several studies, quoted by the respondents to the survey, show a disparity between men and women working in creative roles. For example in the UK, women make up only 26% of technical and engineering roles and there is a 'glass ceiling’ which prevents women from accessing especially technical and decision-making areas.

Existing good practices 

Regulators quoted some very good examples of existing initiatives that work towards addressing this issue. For example, some have pledged to reach 50% representation of women experts by 2020. There are also diversity databases being set up to improve representation of women and help producers to find more diverse guests.


The report finds that there is a general under-representation of women across Europe, both on- and off-screen. Women appear less on screen across a range of genres and are typically subject to more stereotypical and degrading portrayal than men. In off-screen creative roles, women are also generally under-represented, but most significantly in senior and/or technical positions.

In particular, EPRA explores the following points in its conclusions: 

  • Considering a  possible increase of regulators' competences in this area;
  • The need for comprehensive data and European coordination on producing such data;
  • The potential for greater coordination, cooperation and experience sharing among regulators
  • Drawing the link between better gender representation and media literacy.

Commissioner Gabriel has initiated a series of actions to promote participation of women in the digital sector whiere combatting sterotypes is  one of the three pillars of focus.  As this report reiterates cooperation  and sharing of experiences among regulators, the European Network for Women in Digital is a good platform to start with for those organisations working to have a gender-balanced digital sector.