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

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Junior Analyst - Graduate - 6 Month fixed term contract

£17000 - £20000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

SAS Business Analyst - Credit Risk - Retail Banking

£450 - £500 per day: Orgtel: SAS Business Analyst, London, Banking, Credit Ris...

Project Manager - Pensions

£32000 - £38000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The power of anonymity lies in the freedom it grants

Boyd Tonkin
Rebel fighters walk in front of damaged buildings in Karam al-Jabal neighbourhood of Aleppo on August 26, 2014.  

The Isis threat must be confronted with clarity and determination

Ed Miliband
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone