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ITV bans all-male comedy writing teams

UK commercial broadcaster ITV has said it will not commission comedy shows with all-male writers’ rooms and has introduced a raft of measures to improve the gender balance in its shows.

Saskia Schuster

Saskia Schuster, head of comedy at ITV, said that she had changed ITV contracts and hired female writers for its shows, such as Celebability, after realising that “an awful lot” of its comedy was from all-male writing teams.

She admitted to attendees at Channel 4’s Diverse Festival in Bradford that “too often, the writing room is not sensitively run. It can be aggressive and slightly bullying.”

She added that for every five scripts sent to her by a man, only one would be received from a woman, and that there had been “a significant lack of shows written by women or with women on the writing teams.”

In response, and after consulting writers, producers, agents and performers, Schuster said she has changed her terms of commissioning. She confirmed she would not order anything with all-male writing teams and the broadcaster “must aim towards 50/50 gender representation.”

Schuster set up Comedy 50:50 last year, a scheme designed to encourage more female comedy writers who struggle because men have more writing credits. This is said to be because few producers “get” their voices and female writers “often don’t ‘tribe,’ as the lone female voice” in a writers’ room.

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