ITV announces it has banned all-male comedy writing teams

ITV will no longer commission comedy programmes with all-male writers’ rooms, says the broadcaster’s Head of Comedy.

After a recent audit of ITV programmes, Saskia Schuster revealed that there was “an awful lot” of all-male teams and a “significant lack” of women in her scripted commissions. For every five scripts sent by a man, Saskia would only receive one by a woman.

ITV’s contracts have now been changed, with female writers being hired to join popular shows such as ITV2’s Celebability. One of Saskia’s biggest criticisms of the writing room is that it “too often it is not sensitively run. It can be aggressive and slightly bullying.”

Comedy writer Brona C. Titley, who works on Celebability, took to Twitter to share her thoughts about the gender issue in comedy, where she criticised only having one woman present at the expense of men.

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ITV has now made the decision to change the terms of commissioning, with Saskia saying “I won’t commission anything with an all-male writing team”. Off the back of this, she has launched a scheme called Comedy 50:50 to encourage more female comedy writers.

Female writers can struggle for a number of reasons, including that it’s difficult to compete with men who have more writing credits, and that they can’t thrive as the sole female voice in a writers’ room. It’s also challenging to find a producer who ‘gets’ their voice.

Writing on the Comedy 50:50 website, Saskia said “There can all too often be a sense of tokenism towards the lone female, or the dominant perception is that the female is there purely so the production can hit quotas.”

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Comedy 50:50 has a database hosting the details of 460 female writers, as a result of producers complaining that “there aren’t any female writers” or “we don’t know where to find them”.

Recently, young female writers have been assigned to shadow programmes such as Roman sitcom Plebs, which was written by two men. Saskia also hopes to extend the equality target to cover directors and wider crew members too.