Straight talk with HARDTalk presenter Zeinab Badawi

2015-05-04 07:30

Johannesburg - Zeinab Badawi has become a formidable force in global media.

Born in Sudan, her family moved to the UK when she was a child. Despite having a self-described “hyphenated identity”, she is today one of the most recognisable faces in British media as the presenter of HARDTalk on BBC World News.

#Trending chatted to her when she was in South Africa recently.

What has your journey  been like in the TV industry?

I’d like to say I had a difficult struggle to get into the news industry, but it was really a smooth transition from university into television. I studied politics and economics at Oxford. In the year that followed, I applied for a position in television and joined ITV [Independent Television].

I’m sure you get this question a lot, but have you experienced sexist or racial prejudice in your career?

I suppose people always do it behind the scenes and not directly to me.

I have gravitated towards an area, international news, where my ethnicity has been an advantage, as opposed to a disadvantage. I guess I joined television at just about the right time in broadcasting, just when people were starting to be more aware and accepting of colour and sex. The media should reflect broader society.

I also think having the “right educational background” transcended or broke down barriers for me. But I would say the media is dominated by men in senior positions.

Do you think there’s too much emphasis on women in TV news having to  be beautiful?

I think there are higher standards in terms of appearance for women than there are for men. There is more of a burden placed on women.

But having said that, I don’t think it’s any different from the rest of society, where a woman’s appearance is picked on more than a man in whatever she is doing.

What media trends do you think are the most interesting in the new digital age of news?

What we call new media and social media have had an important role in traditional mainstream media like the BBC.

They’ve transformed the way we gather news, and had an impact on what we cover and how we cover it.

The growth of citizen journalism has also had an impact on the BBC, spreading our access far further than the traditional forms.

Watch Badawi present HARDTalk on BBC World News (channel 400). Each new show screens on Monday at 13:05 and is repeated throughout the week

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