BBC chief promises no more all-male comedy panel shows

The corporation's Director of Television, Danny Cohen, acts on recommendations by the Trust to improve the number of female contributors


BBC’s Director of Television, Danny Cohen, has pledged to make no more episodes of all-male comedy panel shows. 


Following recommendations put forward by the BBC Trust last year, Cohen has spoken out about plans to ensure women are a regular fixture of any future episodes of the broadcaster’s panel shows which include Mock the Week, QI and Have I Got News For You. “We’re not going to have any more panel shows with no women on them,” he told The Observer. “It’s not acceptable.” 

A BBC spokesman confirmed that while all-male episodes already recorded will be broadcast, any future recordings of panel shows will adhere to the new guidelines by including at least one woman: “There may be very rare occasions where shows that were already recorded – or whose panels were already booked ahead of the order – still have all-male line-ups, but hopefully the change should really become apparent.”

Mock the Week is regarded as one of the high profile serial offenders with an all-male line-up of regulars. During its most recent series just five of the 38 guest spots were filled by females – Katherine Ryan and Holly Walsh appearing twice each and Ava Vidal guesting once. 

Cohen – who was head of BBC1 until last spring – did point out the progress already made in ensuring older women are more prominent on screen. “We are getting better,” he told the newspaper, using the example of historian and television presenter, Mary Beard. “But we need to do more.”

Back in July last year, the BBC Trust flagged up the issue to director general Tony Hall, calling it a “matter of urgency” to get more women on air throughout 2013-14. That recommendation was followed up in December when BBC management told programme producers there was “no excuse” for not having women on comedy panel shows after the BBC Trust set out new sex-representation objectives.