A joint survey on the depiction of women in television on the northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean - their roles, career outlook, ways of being represented in relation to the opposite sex - conducted by UNESCO and the Permanent Conference of the Mediterranean Audiovisual Operators (COPEAM) painted a mixed picture.
The survey of six countries - Albania, Cyprus, Jordan, Italy, Morocco, and Slovenia - followed two indicators: percentage of women in media executive positions, and presence of effective policies guaranteeing equal opportunity in programming.
''If you use UNESCO gender equality indicators as a thermometer, the fever is extremely high in some countries'', COPEAM Secretary General Pier Luigi Malesani told ANSAmed in an interview.
Among the countries surveyed, the data on Jordan and Morocco revealed situations that are a far cry from minimum UNESCO standards. ''However, we also found a very strong political desire for change. For example in Morocco, Amina Lemrini, who is the director of national media regulator HACA, has undertaken key reforms'', Malesani remarked.
Even countries who thought themselves immune from sins of discrimination ''such as Slovenia, which prides itself on its past culture as a Communist, egalitarian country'', have discovered they have some inadequacies. Neither did national Italian broadcaster RAI pass with full marks, Malesani pointed out.
''However there too things are changing, thanks to very strong input from President Anna Maria Tarantola, who is especially sensitive to gender issues''.
UNESCO objectives and recommendations include ''non-stereotypical gender representations, which should be unbiased and balanced across all media''.
These are valid for the international community as a whole, including the 34 public broadcasters operating in the Mediterranean Basin, and the dozens of organisms that make up COPEAM.
Malesani is aware that the more theory is applied in practice, the more the difficulties inherent in achieving an egalitarian view of gender in mass media. COPEAM has 15 years of co-production experience: ''A scene showing a boy and a girl kissing chastely in a public square is not a problem in a Western documentary, but that changes if you have a mixed crew behind that camera - one made up of young people from both the north and the south of the Mediterranean''.
Such cultural challenges, says Malesani, are sometimes best resolved through audacity, and other times through caution.
''The important thing is not that one approach should win over another'', he explained. ''The important thing is that people from different sensibilities eventually grow to acquire a consciousness of the reasons and points of view of others. In the end, we aim to achieve a shared and common language''.