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I’ve been sitting with this for a while. Broadcasting sisters message each other. We share stories of the horrors we’ve endured and how we tried to get our managers to do what was right. And how all too often, those managers squelched us. Treated us like we were trying to cause problems. Sent us back into the situation with no new tools to resolve it. No intervention from our so-called “leaders”.
We are united in our resolve to stop the silence around the toxicity in the industry. It’s systemic. Now, It’s highly unlikely that you missed Jennifer Valentyne’s powerful video about her treatment as a woman in broadcasting. But if you haven’t watched it, please do.
It’s never the wrong time to do the right thing https://t.co/MqoyIEDi34— Jennifer Valentyne (@JennValentyne) May 21, 2022
I spent more than three decades in radio and some television. My first experience of being humiliated and bullied by a man in power came at my first full-time radio job. Then over the years it happened on and off, in varying degrees. On the air and off. The host of a morning show was deliberately and overtly sexist to me on air and my manager blamed both of us for not getting along. Another manager hung me out to dry for daily bullying and years later told me he was trying to toughen me up. Once again, as if the problem was me, not the jerk criticizing me during commercial breaks. The woman who took the job when I fled after one year, experienced the same abuse.
It’s not us. It’s definitely them. But it’s also our managers.
Each time, the situation either ended or got worse based on the reaction (or lack thereof) from the supervisor and their higher-ups.
Does the common and repetitive bullying of a female come from a belief that penis outranks vagina? Who knows. Who cares, really. And we must remember that not all bullies are male. But left unchecked, it only gets worse. Bullies are little kids who need to be told they’re misbehaving. Companies are losing talent because too many managers are frightened of conflict.
Many of my male colleagues and supervisors were wonderful and supportive. Some stood up for me when I needed an ally. When a cameraman quietly threatened me, the production’s director removed him from the set. Others protected me in ways I wasn’t aware of at the time. But every time I endured abuse, there was an inexperienced or apathetic manager at the helm. They would say they “prefer to let you work it out yourselves”, but that never happened. It never does. It can’t work out when the abuser isn’t being told his behavior is unacceptable by someone other than his victim. That’s why we need leaders.
As Jennifer explained in her video, her experiences at Q107 went on and on unchecked even though she took action in a professional manner. She went to her manager and even appealed to the company’s CEO. She was trapped in an environment that everyone – I mean EVERYONE – in the industry knew was historically toxic. As a casual onlooker, I made an assumption that it had improved over time. How wrong I was. Listeners usually have no idea about what’s going on behind the scenes. That’s because we are professionals. An enjoyable listening experience is why we are there. Our grievances have no place on the air.
Or do they? I had a long-long-ago fantasy about doing a Howard-Stern type show where every nuance of a particularly toxic show I cohosted would become public knowledge. We’d come back from a break and I’d repeat on air what my cohost had said. My boss wouldn’t do anything. But the public would be horrified. I could stop pretending I loved working with him and be real about the insults and criticism he was hurling my way without cause. He made me the reason for his already lousy mood. How I hated going to work.
I’ve had other, worse experiences with people who are all either out of the business now or dead. So are some of the apathetic managers. But that’s just my experience. I’m just one of thousands. Plenty of people in important roles who gaslighted women or put more focus on dollars than human rights, are still in their jobs.
WHERE ARE THE CHIEFS AND PRESIDENTS?
So here we are, weeks later, and the silence is deafening. Broadcasting executives past and present, those who oversaw Jennifer’s situation and who ignored others like it. Anyone with shred of clout in the business. No one is saying a fucking word. They’re all more concerned about potential lawsuits than doing the right thing. Hey Bell – let’s talk. Rogers, what would Ted and Loretta say? Evanov, we’ve all heard stories. Corus is in the spotlight but every broadcasting company has been culpable at some level, at one time or another.
Real change starts up high. HR departments are largely useless in these matters. (I know this from experience.) Change needs to come from hard policy. From sincere apologies and firm promises to do better. Actions, not just words. If you’re n a corner office, you need to speak up and out. To quote a courageous woman, “it’s never the wrong time to do the right thing.”