So that was the year that was. Or near enough. December is well underway, which means everyone is about to start battling against the dreaded universal Out of Office replies, making public relations work harder than recovering from last night’s Christmas party. Meanwhile, as if we needed any more distractions, the Internet and print titles are churning out more lists than Santa receives annually, celebrating everything from the worst movies of 2014, to the best.
As is obligatory at roughly this point in the calendar, then, The Guardian has released its Media 100 list- self-explanatory in the title, if there are any doubts this is the 100 most powerful people in the modern industry. It’s always a fascinating read, to say the least, and this year there are several points of interest everyone at this PR agency couldn’t help but think on.
This article in Media Guardian highlights several of the most glaring issues- a telling sign of the neutrality of how the league table has been put together, with the publishing house itself criticising how its results look. The biggest problem seeming to be the overwhelming bias towards huge corporations, with numbers one to five all taken up by the biggest names in the marketplace- Larry Page of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Tim Cook of Apple, BBC main man Tony Hall, and Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder.
You have to look as far down as eight before any independent voices begin to emerge, with Lenny Henry at the top of the non-corporate pile thanks to his BAFTA lecture where he rightly criticised the majors for a fall in minority representation within British broadcasting. Perhaps more surprising still, though, is Taylor Swift appearing at #10 as a result of her escaping the clutches of Spotify (Daniel Ek, chief executive of Spotify, comes in at a lowly #41, so take from that what you will).
Needless to say then, it’s mostly a big cat’s game, and as Media Guardian correctly points out, this is somewhat contradictory to public opinion. The bad press on everything from Amazon to Apple, Facebook to Google, continues to mount, yet their control over what we read, see, watch, hear and buy seems to become ever-greater.
Furthermore, at a time when there has been a notable spike in pro-feminist rhetoric circulating in both specialist and mainstream media outlets, it’s telling of how quo the status is to see just one figurehead who isn’t male appear in the Top 10. More so to note that she’s not really a spokesperson for much, other than the rights for musicians to hold on to their copyrights and not give in to music sharing platforms.
A little further down and we do see more representation for women. Rona Fairhead, BBC Trust chair, comes in the Top 15, and investigating the significantly lower ranks reveals some celebrated independent female voices, rather than ladies at the top of companies or publications; for example, TV journalist Mishal Hussain, and Lena Dunham- best known for her writing- just about make it onto the list.
On the whole then, a typically male-dominated rundown of those atop the 21st Century Ivory Tower, what’s also notable is the prevalence of entertainment. From Netflix to Shonda ‘Grey’s Anatomy‘ Rhimes, Sophie Turner Laing of the Endemol/Core/Shine TV company (behind many of the most popular shows in Britain), and YouTuber PewDiePie (who films himself playing video games complete with running commentary and appears higher than head of current affairs and news at BBC), it seems escapism is valuable, and this category has a healthier proportion of women featured.
All intriguing and, at times, alarming items for any discussion agenda, looking at how the landscape lies also got us thinking that perhaps it’s time for a new list to be compiled.
To create a league table of those responsible for actually creating the content, and for that list to be aimed at the public, rather than peers in the same industry, would be fascinating and could potentially offer some benefits. A lay celebration of activists, journalists, investigative reporters, critics, intrepid dramatists and make-you-laughers might increase how respected their roles are, thus increasing the perceived value of what they do. It might also see the honours shared a little more evenly between the genders. If we consider the New York Times has the lowest number of female by-lines of any major US newspaper at 31%, then realistically the gender divide in terms of actual production, rather than management and ownership, is much thinner than that of the Media 100 list; a fact which, if publicised, may encourage more women to try and find work in this notoriously imbalanced sector, which can only be a good thing considering how much room for improvement there still is according to the current figures.