Dear BBC, we should be encouraging all female comic talent, regardless of postcode

To begin, yes I acknowledge that a ranty post seems a bit of out of place on a blog whose title promises laughter, not negativity and, yes, I also realise that this being the first post doesn’t really set us off on the right foot, and for that I apologise like the bumbling Brit that I am. However, something caught my eye that annoyed me so much that I couldn’t help but write about it.

Whilst scrolling through Facebook during a mindless session of procrastination, I saw a post that immediately stopped my scrolling and had me clicking on the link quicker than you could say “unemployed student”.  It was the news that the BBC are introducing a new bursary to help female comics, in honour of comedy writer-performer Caroline Aherne, who sadly passed away last year. “Finally!” I thought, and was already mentally filling in my application. As a young female starting out in stand up, with aspirations of writing and starring in my own sitcoms a la Miranda Hart or Lee Mack, opportunities like this are a chance to get  recognition and encouragement in a high competitive and sadly still male dominated industry.

However, amidst the writing of my acceptance speech for winning the BAFTA for best sitcom ( if there is a BAFTA for that, I’m a bit rusty on the television ones, they always seem to pass me by), something cut my (imaginary) career plans short. The bursary is only open to Northern Women.

We’re not  yet in a position where we can focus on encouraging a certain female demographic to come forward. Women are seriously underrepresented in TV comedy shows. Period. You need only look at the main panel shows to work that out.  Out of the big hitters, only QI has a female host, with Sandy Toksvig taking over from Stephen Fry last year, and of the BBC shows she is the only permanent female host. Both “Have I got news for You” and “Mock the week” are constantly male-dominated with the former only ever having one female guest on the panel per episode, making her in a sense the “token women” and the latter using the same 2-3 female comics again and again, with Angela Barnes appearing on three episodes in a row this series, although she isn’t team leader and this isn’t done with the male guest comedians. Furthermore, of the sixteen currently running sitcoms on the BBC, only five feature female writers on their writing teams, with only two having a women as the head writer.

If the BBC was bursting at the seams with female comics who spoke in received pronunciation to the extent that anyone north of the M25 couldn’t get a look in, I’d say yes BBC, mix it up a bit, but it’s not. We need more female faces on on “live at the Apollo” , we need female hosts and gender balanced panel shows. We need female comics on shows not because they’re the “token female”,but because they’re hilarious and deserve to be seen. And for goodness sake, we need more women in the writing rooms. We are capable of coming up with good ideas if you let us.

It’s great that the BBC are acknowledging  this issue and are trying to put a scheme in place to support new talent, but eligibility shouldn’t be based on Postcode. Restricting something like this to one area of the country means thousands of ideas and potential stars are being overlooked. We already have it harder in this industry and have to overcome prejudice before we grab the mic or step into the writer’s room. Why put another obstacle in the way?

 

Here is the link to the orginal article:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-40610460

I think we should really be making some noise about this. Please share this, tweet people in the business and let’s show them that it isn’t OK to leave people out in a group that is already overlooked in this industry.

Until next time (when I’ll be less annoyed, I promise!)

Stella