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Women lose out again in election media coverage

Samantha Cameron gained more column space and air time than either Leanne Wood or Natalie Bennett in week one

Even with female party leaders women have featured in barely a fifth of media coverage of the 2015 General Election so far, researchers at Loughborough University have found.

Academics from the University’s Communication Research Centre (CRC) are conducting a real time news audit of the 2015 General Election campaign, lifting the lid each week on what media coverage the parties, their policies, MPs and their partners are securing.

They have carried out news audits for every General Election since 1992, enabling them to track reporting patterns and identify any changes.

In their latest report the research team have found that yet again female MPs are receiving significantly less media coverage than their male counterparts, with 86% of politicians featured in election coverage so far being male.

And the issue persists in the wider coverage of the election, with less than one in five of all people featured in election news being female.

Dr Emily Harmer from the CRC said: “Despite there being three female party leaders, a female deputy leader and several senior female MPs coverage of women in the election remains markedly below that of their male counterparts.

“There has been a slight improvement on previous election coverage where the percentage representation of women was even lower, but considering the significant role of women in this election it is still a major issue.

“In several instances, the wives and partners of MPs have gained more exposure than leading female politicians. For example, in our first sample week, Samantha Cameron gained more column space and air time than either Leanne Wood of Plaid Cymru or Natalie Bennett of the Greens.”

The CRC news audit for 2015 is concentrating on the main news bulletins/programmes on BBC1, BBC2, ITV, C4, C5, Sky, BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 4 and all the main daily national newspapers. Coverage is analysed from Monday to Friday each week.

The reports provide commentary about the week’s coverage and systematic measurements of which politicians and parties received the most coverage, the proportion of negative and positive coverage of candidates and parties, which issues received greatest prominence and the amount of coverage given to the election.

The audit is being led by Professor David DeaconDr Dominic WringProfessor John Downey, Dr Emily Harmer and Dr James Stanyer from the Department of Social Sciences.

The team’s methodology, full weekly reports and further analysis can be found at the University’s General Election 2015 web page.