In an interesting move, BBC has announced a ban on all-male panels on popular comedy shows like QI, Mock the Week, and Have I Got News for You. The decision comes after frequent complaints from the network and female comedians alike about the male dominance on the series, whose guest panels featured only 5 women out of a total 38 panelists in recent episodes. Director of BBC Television Danny Cohen called the male-to-female ratio “unacceptable” and was very matter-of-fact about the all-male ban: “We’re not going to have panel shows on any more with no women on them. You can’t do that. It’s unacceptable.” BBC’s entertainment controller Mark Linsey took it a step further: “I’m making it clear to production teams that there’s just no excuse for delivering all-male guest lists.”
While BBC will air any all-male panel shows recorded before the announcement of the ban, going forward the gender equality will be enforced – and that’s expectedly been met with mixed reactions from viewers and comedians alike. In the past, comedian Victoria Wood and TV critic Caitlin Moran have snubbed panel show invites due to their male-dominated lineups; Moran wrote back in 2012: “I think that’s a boys’ game that works for the boys. It’s not like they built it to screw women over, it’s just that boys built it so they made it to work for boys. If I go on there as a token women, it’s not going to work for me.” Some against the ban are calling it “positive discrimination” and argue that it’s setting up the very tokenism those women were working against, but BBC seems pretty firm on their decision, so it’ll be intriguing to see how the panel shows evolve from this ban.