The BBC said it has "taken a leading role" in increasing the number of women in the industry Reuters

There are still not enough women in news and current affairs broadcasting and organisations must take urgent steps to eradicate discrimination, according to a committee of peers.

The House of Lords Communications Committee acknowledged that the fast-paced nature and immediacy of news and current affairs poses challenges to gender equality, but it believed that not enough is being done to enable more women to work in the genre, especially in senior positions.

"Despite the fact that women make up just over half the population, they are underrepresented, both as staff and as experts, in news and current affairs broadcasting," said Lord Best, the chairman of the committee.

"And although we recognise the fact that the nature of the sector means that there are additional barriers to women – for example, the fast-paced nature of news which can mean anti-social hours, and freelance work that can make it harder for women with caring responsibilities – the situation is simply not good enough.

"The fact that news has such a wide-reaching audience means that a special effort must be made by broadcasters – public service broadcasters in particular and especially the BBC because of its special status and its dominance as a provider of news and current affairs.

"We were also concerned about the evidence we heard suggesting that discrimination against women, particularly older women, still exists in the industry.

"We found that there isn't enough data on the representation of women in the sector to fully understand the extent of the problem," Best added.

"We noted, for example, that the majority of journalism students are women, and yet there are so few of them in the news and current affairs broadcasting sector. We need a robust, extensive body of data in order to figure out what needs to be done to address the problem."

The report recommended that broadcasters should safeguard a gender balance in their wider workforce to enable the coverage of issues which affect both men and women in varied ways.

In addition, the peers said "urgent steps" should be taken by broadcasters to eradicate any opportunities for gender discrimination and bullying of any kind.

"We have taken a leading role in increasing the number of women in the industry through initiatives like our Expert Women training and our support for women presenters on local radio," said a spokesperson for the BBC.

"Nearly half of the BBC's news and current affairs workforce is female with more than a third in leadership positions.

"While the issues and evidence in the report are based on historical cases, we are always looking at what more we can do and are committed to making further progress."