(Entretien) (en) Tinatin Berdzenishvili, Director General of Georgian Public Broadcaster, Chair of the EBU Gender Equality steering group)– EBU

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(Entretien réalisé à l’occasion de la sortie de l’étude du CSA sur l’égalité de genre au sein des métiers de l’audiovisuel en Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles)

The CSA discussed with Tinatin Berdzenishvili (Director General of Georgian Public Broadcaster, Chair of the EBU Gender Equality steering group) and Madiana Asseraf-Jacob (Head of Business Development – EBU) about the EBU’s work on gender equality  

Tinatin Berdzenishvili is Director General of Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) and has been chairing the European Broadcasters Union (EBU) gender equality steering group for the past two years. 

The steering group published the report “All Things Being Equal. Gender Equality Guidelines from Public Service Media” several month ago. It is the result of the joined effort of the eleven EBU members forming the group. 

What were the origins of the report ? How did it start ? 

This project was born out of a discussion with Tony Hall, Director General of the BBC and, at the time, President of the EBU. He expressed the wish to mark his presidency by a strong and collective effort. In February 2019, he presented a proposal to the EBU Executive Board to set up a Gender Equality steering group. The objective was to identify and compare success stories among members in their gender equality politics, focusing on equality within media organisations themselves, especially at the level of human resources and management bodies. 

The EBU Executive Board approved and eleven EBU members, representing the geographical and cultural diversity of the organization, came forward and proposed candidates to contribute to the missions of the steering group. I was appointed as Chair of the Gender Equality group. 

The Author of the report is Claudia Vaccarone – who was coordinating the group very efficiently and with high professionalism from the EBU side, let me thank her for the great efforts and enormous job she has done for the Gender Equality Group.  

The report sets out guidelines on gender equality policies. Its aim is to inspires the members to pursue gender equality in their own organizations, to dismantle gender stereotypes, to build a culture and develop new policies in a fresh, inclusive perspective. This report is also a mirror of our own practices, as members also included stories about their own organizations. It is a self-helping guide for both EBU members and media organizations in general. It is not a feminist manifesto, our aim being that it inspires both men and women. 

What methodology did you use to carry out this work?  

The steering group was set up to represent the full geographical and cultural diversity of our organization. This group analyzed the best gender equality practices among public media broadcasters and identified diverse policies that could be implemented. Based on these data, the report produces a series of recommendations, actionable tips and case studies from the EBU members. These narratives provide the opportunity for EBU members to learn from each other, and to identify practical steps that other media organizations can take. Most of the work consisted of collecting data from the very wide range of EBU members.  

The report identifies strategic goals to underpin media organizations in gender equality implementation: diagnose the issues, set up effective workplace policies to support equality of opportunity and enable a positive workplace culture throughout flexibility, leadership and behaviors to retain talents. Involving both men and women in the process and ensuring their equal participation is also vital for success. 

You will find very easily in this report how to start: assess the situation using the data, engage everyone – men and women – introduce policies that enable gender equality and focus on corporation culture, etc.  I think that starting from data is essential. The data will guide media organizations and help them introducing policies that enable gender equality within their organizations. Another important aspect is also to involve both men and women in the discussion and remaining attentive to the culture of each country. 

What levers did you identify to promote gender equality within the human resources of media services ?  

It is obvious that gender equality cannot be achieved without appropriate leadership. A top-down approach is indeed essential, as change must come from above. For this to happen, the leadership must desire gender equality, and be deeply convinced of its benefits. It is therefore necessary, as a first step, to make leaders aware of the urgency and the benefits such measures. To achieve this objective, various strategies have been identified by the group:   

  • First, share data on gender: leaders need to understand how gender is balanced within organizations. They need to be able to discuss, identify reasons and promote the narratives, for example through focus groups.   
  • Second, inspire leaders through success stories: showcase examples of success in organizations promoting gender equality, within the media industry or in other sectors. This can be done, for example, by making it possible for leaders to visit these organizations and provide them simulations and practical ideas.  
  • Third, create a “mentoring” system between public service media organizations, allowing some structures to learn from similar institutions that are more advanced on the issue. The objective is to increase knowledge about how to achieve gender equality. Initially envisaged at the level of EBU members, this system of “high-level mentoring” could then be generalized to other media services.  

All of this will help to raise awareness among leaders and give them the concrete means to achieve greater diversity in their respective organizations.  

Do you have specific advice for larger organizations, such as public service media structures?  

In larger organizations, a good idea is to have a person specifically assigned to diversity and/or gender equality. Indeed, we observe that very often, especially during critical or tense periods such as the current health crisis, these issues tend to take a back seat due to lack of time or resources. Having a person dedicated to equality or diversity helps to maintain a constant and focused attention on these issues, regardless of the context. We have examples in different media organizations in Germany, Finland or Belgium, where people are “head of diversity” or “head of gender equality”. 

In smaller structures, where the creation of a specific position is not an option, these functions can be taken over by other managers, such as HR or marketing managers, by adding diversity to their job profile.  

There is no single recipe for achieving gender equality. 

In terms of recruitment, the introduction of quotas can also be a useful starting point. While this is obviously not an ideal, it is often a necessary first step, in the absence of other levers, towards greater equality among the staff.  

In general, we believe it is necessary to encourage leaders to rethink what is happening in their own organisations and to motivate people and communities. We have the feeling that something is changing, and we have to think about that. 

Do you think public service media have a specific role to play in the implementation of gender equality and in the evolution of society towards greater equality?   

Of course they do ! It is clear that the way the media portray society has the power to change and shape it. In this sense, on-screen representation directly influence society. It is not only a matter of how many women are represented but also of how women are represented : stereotypes are conveyed through the media, and there is an urgent need to portray women realistically, to give them their full democratic role in society. Public service media have a key role here.  

The public service media have a democratic mission: addressing the nation, representing the society in all its diversity. This should not just be words, we have to implement it in our real lives. It is essential that the contents reflect an image of society as it really is.  Also, to reach this equality on-screen, parity inhouse needs to be insured first. 

During the COVID 19 crisis, GPB took a variety of initiatives to promote gender equality. During the lockdown, when everyone had to stay home, we started TV programs from home to home:  The joint project of the GPB and the UN was aiming support to children and parents during isolation, featuring fathers reading books to their children. While the musical program “Acoustics” was showing the daily life of musician women, highlighting their creativity and professional activities during lockdown. These contents aimed, in a playful and light-hearted way, to promote a more egalitarian vision of society and family, and to remind people of the crucial importance of these subjects, even in times of crisis. The feedback has been numerous and enthusiastic, proving that more than a question of budget, the promotion of equality and diversity is sometimes simply a matter of editorial choice : everyone can act at his or her own level, you don’t need huge budget or huge resources to do it. 

The report is now finalized and published. What are the next steps in the project? 

The work of the steering group lasted two years. I am particularly proud to have been able to complete it, having carried out this mission and my full-time job at the Georgian Public Broadcaster.  

At the GPB level, different challenges lie ahead, such as the implementation of the BBC 50/50 project for radio media. More broadly, we are also working to implement policies to promote equality and diversity in all our content: series, entertainment, news programs, etc. In addition, the steering group’s report was recently translated into Georgian and published. It is generally very well received by non-governmental organizations and grassroots associations (women’s organizations, etc.). It was particularly important for us to obtain the adhesion of these structures. Awareness-raising is taking place in the field, which is a very encouraging first step. 

The next steps for the EBU are now to focus on diversity in broader sense, but gender equality is still a priority for the organization. Something is changing and the EBU has interest in seizing this opportunity and continuing to insist on the importance of developing these subjects. Globally, we are currently witnessing a snowball effect: the subject is evolving in industry, in society, and is becoming more and more important. We are very optimistic about this. 

Madiana Asseraf-Jacob (Head of Business Development – EBU) adds regarding the next steps for the EBU:   

Bringing gender issues to the attention of the sector and raising awareness of the importance of greater diversity is the first step in the process, and there is obviously a long way to go before reaching the ideal scenario where mentalities will have structurally evolved. The work of the steering group has led to an in-depth awareness-raising among public service media managers, and some changes are already visible, such as the fact that more women are reaching management positions (e.g. in the EBU). 

The next steps for the EBU will be to continue this awareness raising and to exchange best practices, not only on the internal organization of media structures but also on the way women are represented on screen and on the airwaves. Moreover, the issue of gender representation in Boards is also one of the priorities within the group.  

Another step for the EBU is to address diversity in a broader way, by developing tools to promote equality and inclusiveness in terms of age, sexual orientation, disability, ethnic origin. These issues are of course already addressed by public service media, but they deserve to be structured in the same way as gender equality is today: communicated and promoted at all levels, up to the highest levels of public service media. 

What advice would you give to young women who would like to take the helm of a public service media? 

My advice would be, very simply, not to be afraid and to seize the opportunities. If I am a “role model”, it is not because I am a woman, but because I started in television as an intern, and then built my entire career there by seizing every possible opportunity. Girls need to realize that running a public service media or holding a position of responsibility is not a fairy tale: it is a realistic, possible, attainable goal. I believe that since my appointment, people have started to realize that it is actually possible for a woman to be a CEO. This is what I have been telling my young male and female colleagues.  

Consultez le site consacré à l’étude sur l’égalité de genre au sein des métiers de l’Audiovisuel en FWB

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