Margaret Pomeranz: 'Television Is A Boys Club, We've Got A Way To Go'

08/09/2015 6:59 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
Nick Wils

margaret pomeranz

On Wednesday, much loved film critic, Margaret Pomeranz aptly joins actor Magda Szuabanski and BBC World News correspondent, Yalda Hakin to celebrate women in television at the ASTRA Women in TV Breakfast happening in Sydney.

With a career spanning almost three decades co-hosting The Movie Show on SBS and At The Movies on ABC with David Stratton, Margaret -- now the host of Foxtel Movies Masterpiece -- spoke to The Huffington Post Australia ahead of the breakfast.

You’ve had an incredible career. How has the industry changed for women since your SBS days?

"It’s a gorgeous sight to see the amount of women working into television today. We’ve come a long way but we’ve got a way to go. Women are natural born producers because they’ve got that nurturing streak -- but you look at any of the major free to air stations and any of the other stations for that matter and you try and see a woman at the top -- it’s pretty dead up there."

But there’s a pool of female talent in Australian television right now…

"We’ve had significant women as Head of Television like Sandra Levy at ABC and Sorensen Medina at the SBS and there have been women as Head of News as well -- but you know, a managing director that’s a woman -- it’s hard to think of one! It’s a boys’ club at the top of the television stations and while most people are pretty damn nice -- at the same time it would be nice to see some women scattered throughout management."

What gives?

"I don’t know whether it’s because women choose to stay in those nurturing positions -- producing roles where they’re making things happen -- I know I had the opportunity of moving up the ladder and quite frankly I didn’t want to because it meant going to meeting after meeting after meeting! I was much happier getting things done. That was a choice on my part."

Did you get treated any differently as a woman in TV?

"Personally, I can’t complain -- I think I’ve been very lucky. I started in the very early days of SBS in 1980 -- a week after it went to air. I was given chances and I was hungry to learn. I knew nothing about television production because I came from a writing background. I had people who were my bosses who were very encouraging and gave me opportunities and you grasp them with both hands and run with them. But that was the early days and I think it’s very tough now because that was a nascent organisation."

You started out as a playwright before joining SBS as a producer and writer. Is there anyone in particular who had a significant influence on you?

"I had a boss at SBS, Don Lowe who was Head of News. He really gave me my head. I knew nothing and I was given the chance to experiment and learn on my feet. I got to do a half hour retrospective program on Australia in 1954 (for 1984, so it was 30 years on). I researched the music and got great help from a lot of people in the industry -- but I got the Prime Minister of Great Britain’s name wrong! I can always remember that was the only thing Don said to me -- “Just by the way Margaret, you got that one wrong!” That was the beauty of it though -- being SBS we were able to make a lot of mistakes on air and no one noticed because we were on the edge -- and probably because no one was watching!"

Is it really as competitive as people make out?

"Television is a greedy industry. You work your guts out to produce a program each week and it chews you up, spits you out -- and then wants more! I worked incredible hours and I had young children and it was really a juggling match so you need support of your family to get in there and deliver. And you need to be prepared to work through the night to meet a deadline."

Is the future bright?

"Like any creative industry it’s becoming more and more sophisticated over time. The drama we produce is world class and it’s wonderful that television is no longer seen as the poor cousin -- where really talented directors and performers and cinematographers once didn’t want to work -- they are embracing television now."

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