Yes, banning all-male panel shows was the right thing to do

In the US, where the entertainment industry is more evolved, they don't have such concerns

Share

The ubiquitous Mary Beard, professor in classics at Cambridge University, is never short of an opinion. On Newsnight, she'll be talking about the efficacy of economic sanctions on Russia and then she'll be on Radio 5 debating with Steve Claridge and Robbie Savage about who should play up front for England in the World Cup. Not quite, but it's only to be expected that today she should weigh in to the debate over the BBC's ban on all-male line-ups on panel shows.

She thinks it's a) a good thing because affirmative action helps counter the anti-women bias that's hard-wired into our culture and b) a bad thing because she thinks it opens up women to criticism that they're only there to fulfil quotas. She's right on both counts, but the impulse of Danny Cohen, BBC's head of television whose edict this is, is surely the right one. Anyone who switches on a BBC panel show and sees only men will know that they will be treated to a half-hour in the saloon bar at the Old Bull and Smug. If women are placed on this earth to improve men, it's on television panel shows where this is most apparent.

The comedian and mathematician Dara O'Briain was more vocal in pouring scorn on Mr Cohen's plan. It wasn't that he'd calculated there simply weren't enough women to go round, given how many panel shows are on television these days, but more that he felt that such a rule smacked of tokenism. He felt that the same amount of effort should go into engineering a gender balance in other industries, like, for instance, "computer coding," he said, "in which there are hundreds of thousands of jobs in Europe and only 11 per cent are done by women".

He deliberately misses the point. Of course, we should try to tackle the lack of female representation in disciplines like computer coding. And, maybe, in football management. Or in the second hand car trade. But the fact is that Mr Cohen's decree is simply good business practice. It stops these shows being the province of testosterone-fuelled show-offs and, however simplistic this may be, it makes half the population feel their voice is being heard.

In America, where the entertainment industry is more evolved, they don't have such concerns. Their two showpiece awards ceremonies - the Oscars and the Golden Globes - were hosted by women. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler - two of the funniest people on the planet - took over the Globes from Ricky Gervais, and where he was caustic and cruel (but hilarious), they were sharp and satirical (and hilarious, too)

Ellen Degeneres at the Oscars was also a good turn, but nothing in the awards season will beat Fey and Poehler. From their opening "welcome to everyone in the room, and to all the women and gay men watching at home" to Poehler's observation that, after watching 12 Years A Slave, she'll "never look at slavery the same way again", their monologue was a brilliantly written, perfectly executed piece of work. Where is the British Amy Poehler? If Danny Cohen's challenge to a male bastion succeeds in unearthing her, he should be supported, whatever Mary Beard may say.     

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: A huge step forward in medical science, but we're not all the way there yet

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
David Cameron has painted a scary picture of what life would be like under a Labour government  

You want constitutional change? Fixed-term parliaments have already done the job

Steve Richards
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album