KEVIN McKenna’s recent column about BBC Academy’s Expert Women Scotland media familiarisation day application process at least recognised that BBC Scotland is seeking “smart and articulate women from all backgrounds to contribute to their multifarious broadcasting platforms throughout the year” (Why are women being asked to jump through hoops for BBC screen time?, The National, January 5).

Kevin states that it is a “long-overdue” initiative although he seems to have missed that Expert Women Scotland is in fact part of an initiative which has been running since 2013 and which includes both Expert Women and Expert Voices (aimed at Black, Asian and minority ethnic subject specialists).

During the last four years more than ten free media familiarisation days have been held in London, Salford, Glasgow, Cardiff and Belfast. At a BBC Academy Expert Women’s Day held in London last March, Professor Lis Howell, director of broadcasting at London’s City University, told the assembled experts that research conducted in 2014 looking at the UK’s main broadcast news programmes showed that women contributing to items on politics were outnumbered ten to one by men; for sport, it was six to one; home affairs, five to one; entertainment, four to one; and even health, by two to one.

To date, more than 100 women have gone through the BBC intensive media training with several new media careers launched.

Kevin also said that the women chosen would “appear occasionally on some radio or television talk shows for which they will be paid nothing”, presumably assuming of course that Kevin himself isn’t doing one of his regular pundit slots.

The aim of Expert Women events is to give the participants – many of whom will have no experience of appearing on air – an overview and an introduction to what to expect once they are on air. This includes advice on online participation too.

Once they have taken part in the Expert Women Scotland event, participants will be included on a database available to BBC and STV news outlets.

Lastly Kevin states that the application process, including the uploading of a two-minute film about the applicant, is unduly complicated. As indicated on the application guidelines, this can be as simple as a friend or family member recording the person on a smartphone.

In answer to the question “what sort of representation of women are they seeking?”, the answer, as demonstrated by previous Expert Women events, is a broad range of women from all walks of life and at every stage of life.

Our audiences want to hear from diverse voices and that’s what this scheme is trying to achieve. Rather than pick holes in it, we’d hope Kevin would welcome that goal too, as otherwise we only see and hear from the same old – often male, and often Kevin himself – faces.

Gary Smith
Head of News, BBC Scotland

Read Kevin McKenna's original piece here and let us know what you think in the comments.

The EBC has been in full SNP Bad mode over the past week over waiting times and how bad they are in Scotland without actually comparing them with England, except by the sin of omission in that they failed to explain certain very important fundamental differences in the recording methodology.

These differences were explained recently in a comment on Wings Over Scotland, where the words of Dr Philippa Whitford were paraphrased as follows: “In Scotland, the time starts with registration, and ends with discharge/admission – 80 per cent, 95 per cent, whatever per cent – have their entire experience concluded within four hours.

“So, the more complicated your treatment, the less leeway there is for sitting in a queue and still managing to leave/be admitted to a ward in less than four hours. In England (I don’t know about Wales or NI), the time starts with being ‘seen’ by a doctor, so the whole wait in corridors/back of ambulances is not included in the statistics and yet they STILL have worse results than we do”.

It’s time the Sarah Smiths and her like of this world were brought to justice, for in my book misleading by omission is a bigger lie than just lying in the first place.

I also wonder how many of those turning up at A&E were minor ailments, coughs and snuffles etc, where in the past we would have taken an aspirin, a hot toddy and gone to bed.

Charlie Gallagher