ITV bans all-male comedy writing teams

In news that will cause waves in the UK and could ripple to other countries, ITV’s head of comedy has said the company will no longer commission shows with all-male writers.

The ban even extends to teams that have just one “token woman”.

Saskia Schuster, said, “Too often the writing room is not sensitively run.

“It can be aggressive and slightly bullying.”

After reviewing the make-up of the comedy shows that ITV was making, she found that while on screen representation was fairly equal, on the writing teams, women were largely unrepresented.

Schuster said she was only receiving one script submission from a female writer for every five scripts written by a male.

In Australia filmmaker Rachel Ward has previously advocated, “I don’t believe any more in the adage best person for the job. Nothing will change for women in the industry unless action is gender focused, for a time, in order for women to catch up. We need to organise and consolidate our power bases as men have done for so long.”

In 2016 Screen NSW (now Create NSW) ruled all TV drama series must include female key creatives on their team in order to receive development or production finance.

But are blanket “bans” in an organic medium better than taking a pro-active approach? And where do bans stop…?

In 2015 Screen Australia announced a Gender Matters suite of initiatives to address the gender imbalance within the Australian screen industry.

Last year Schuster founded a Comedy 50:50 initiative to get more women into writing for comedy, as well as creating an independent database of female writers, regular networking and mentoring opportunities.

ITV has also been under pressure over it Duty of Care around Reality TV shows.

19 Comments:

  1. Answering past discrimination with more discrimination. Terrible move. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

    If there is discrimination in hiring decisions, then punish the offender(s). If you’re commissioning programming, have the producers demonstrate they’ve hired all employees solely on merit.

    Poor behaviour, including bullying, isn’t restricted to one gender. If there’s poor behaviour in the writing room, punish the offender(s).

  2. The British entertainment industry does give the impression that it develops cliques, perhaps it’s a remnant of the past where elite theatrically trained set designers and playwrights also had a sideline making movie and TV productions as well, there was a fair degree of artistic snobbery involved.
    It’s hardly surprising that some alpha personalities will use personal conflict to gain some ascendancy especially if the head writer has a list of successful shows to point at, ITV has made some good shows lately, perhaps better than the BBC, but it is focused at developing commercial overseas sales too especially the USA, which may have a part to play in this ITV decision.

  3. If they are talented comedy writers, and can deliver the laughs and the ratings, they can stick a monkey in there for all I care.

    Any person in any job, male or female, have to prove themselves to get that job and stay in that job.

  4. The comments on this post are appalling. This policy isn’t antagonist, it’s supportive of the industry, emerging voices and providing innovative stories for audiences. Take a seat, enjoy what’s produced as a result of this, or have an exestential crisis about how the world is becoming a better place and what does it mean if you can’t engage with that.

    • Hi Anthony, I’m a big advocate for diversity and have written numerous articles around this over the years. Personally I favour a pro-active approach such as what Screen Australia has done with initiatives that are now leading to production, rather than a blanket ban. In regards to comments moderation, while I concur some comments are ignorant, ultimately a ban of this kind can’t come without discussion.

      • Oh no absolutely. You and this blog are an incredible (and I’m sure effective) advocate for diversity in this industry, both nationally and internally (Pose [as an example], you did much more to promote that than Foxtel, before it reached acclaim) ~ those secondary comments in my comment were directed towards readers of this post who bristled at it, absolutely not at you.

        And totally discussion is perfectly valid ~ which is why I’m being vocal here. The only voice in this comment section should not be that this policy is anything other than inclusive.

        • All good, I didn’t take it as directed at me, but it was important to reiterate context. I approve numerous comments I personally don’t agree with, including some that haven’t gleaned the basics.

  5. There’s barely 1% of comedy programmes on ITV these days anyway, so this is just trying to improve their image since the reality duty of care backlash.

  6. It’s interesting that this is all about securing jobs for women, with not even the slightest pretext that it might be done in the name of equality and could go both ways. I’ve worked on (and observed other) teams in TV that were all women with one token male, and I can assure you that women are capable of bullying too, and of using the same kind of tactics men have been known to use to exclude, sideline or silence input that they consider unwelcome or inconvenient. It’s also increasingly common to find TV productions where the writers rooms are all female and/or key production personnel (producer, director, line-producer, head writer) are all female. Surely protections should go both ways.

    • This is about correcting an inbalance. A decade of inequality where men are on the ground-end of the seesaw doesn’t quite equate to the sixty years of industry-wide inequality that has preceded this. It mightn’t be fair for individuals of a specific gender at the moment, but nor has the industry been fair to individuals of specific genders up until now. This is a step toward eventual equality in the future, not a grounded position of equality in the moment.

      • Hate to tell you Anthony but no matter how hard you shout and try to police other people’s views by jumping on every post their votes, dollars and viewership eyeballs count as much as yours.

        Engaging in inequality today does not decrease the inequality of the past or change it in any fashion.. it just perpetuates more, on entirely new innocent targets.

        The growing disconnect between the media class and activists like yourself with what the broad mass of people consider fair and just will just increase the number of times you’re all surprised by a continuing lurch right.

        The future you get by pushing too far to the left isn’t utopia.. it is actually a return to the values you think your will get everyone to leave behind.

  7. This is a childish knee-jerk reaction and will only arouse further contempt between the sexes. If people are behaving inappropriately, then they should be reprimanded and/or dealt with accordingly, as opposed to sweeping problems under the rug of a “ban” and neglecting to address the root cause(s) of such problems. If there aren’t enough female comedy writers, it isn’t the fault of men that women aren’t more proactive in pursuing work in the industry (frankly, any industry for that matter, and likewise for men), and stripping men of merit from having these opportunities over women who are given work on the basis of sex alone is not doing the sexes, or comedy, any favours.

    • Yikes.

      This is such an out of touch perspective. Of all environments, comedy writing rooms are some of the most toxic environments for gender equality based on merit. Megan Ganz (now prolific comedy writer, producer and creator) and her experience working under Dan Harmon (Ricky and Morty, Community) during her time at Community, as succintly encapsulated in a recent This American Life podcast episode (which depicts both perspectives, it’s not biased or unfair to either party), perfectly encapsulates the established inequality in comedy writing rooms.

      There are plenty of female comedy writers, this is an action that recognises there’s a barrier to them gaining jobs and experiences ~ because if the gatekeepers are men, their egos are possibly going to dismiss the brilliance of emerging and established women unless they’re sexualising them (see Megan Ganz’s experiences in Dan…

      • You’re citing a single example to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and you assume that the “gatekeeping” men are are egomaniacal women-haters by default. Contempt between the sexes is an issue that ought to be addressed, but unfortunately my perspective can’t be succinctly conveyed via a mere 900 character post in a comment section of a blog.

        As a male working in a predominantly female-dominated workplace, I have met my share of toxic women and those who are kind and respectful. I’m all for more diverse perspectives in the arts, but imposing quotas that unfairly favour underrepresented demographics is not the answer, especially if such people are out of touch with the demographic(s) that they purportedly represent, which is a concern as these people are quite influential in depicting those demographics via mass media, often in a manner that is frankly disingenuous.

  8. equality_street

    Another piece of…..BS this time from the UK. I would bet ITV wouldnt ban an all female writing team.
    Only have time for real quality programs not dross storylines such as ITV’s Coronation Street that always slants towards a females bias.
    Should we ban for instance a gender bias of news reporters and presenters? With pride one broadcaster boasted ” We have 7 women to 1 man in our newsroom” Nothing to be proud of! Slanted warped creepy ideology is all it is.

  9. This is the discussion around increasing women’s involvement in all jobs from Politics to Boards to bus drivers.

    And I’m not convinced that enshrining quotas for women in writing will lift the standard, but perhaps that’s not the point and the point is giving them access?

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