ITV won’t commission all-male comedy writing teams in future

Comedy head Saskia Schuster is making sure ITV shows such as Celebability will feature female writers

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ITV has announced it will no longer commission scripted comedies with all-male writing teams.

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Saskia Schuster, head of the broadcaster’s comedy department, has said an audit revealed “an awful lot” of all-male teams and a “significant lack” of women in writing rooms.

“Too often the writing room is not sensitively run. It can be aggressive and slightly bullying,” Schuster said at Channel 4’s Diverse Festival on Monday (via BBC), where she spoke on the “why employing more women writers in comedy matters” panel.

She added that female writers – such as Tracey Breaks the News and The Reluctant Landlord star Brona C Titley – have been hired to join shows like ITV2’s Celebability. Additionally, Schuster has assigned young female writers to shadow shows such as Roman sitcom Plebs, currently written by two men, Sam Leifer and Tom Basden.

Alongside changing ITV’s comedy contracts so that shows “must aim towards 50:50 gender representation”, Schuster has also launched a scheme called Comedy 50:50 to encourage female comics.

“There can all too often be a sense of tokenism towards the lone female,” she wrote on Comedy 50:50’s website. “Or the dominant perception is that the female is there purely so the production can hit quotas. Many women don’t want to be or don’t enjoy being that lone female.”

Saying producers had complained “there aren’t any female writers [or] we don’t know where to find them”, Schuster has also launched a free-to-use database of over 460 female writers on Comedy 50:50’s site.

“I’m aware that there’s a lot more that could be done, we haven’t even mentioned female directors or crew, but to start with I’m keeping the focus small, and the solutions practical, so that we can effect change quickly,” Schuster said. “But I hope this endeavour will grow.”

So, what do you think? Should other broadcasters stop commissioning all-male comedy writing teams? Or are there better ways to promote inclusivity? Have your say below…

In October 2018, RadioTimes.com launched the #WomensWords campaign to provide a platform to brilliant female screenwriters, from the big-name stars behind our favourite dramas to the up-and-coming writers poised to shape our TV viewing.

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You can find a host of interviews, tips and articles addressing how to get more women in writer roles here.