Dara O Briain hits out at BBC all-male panel ban

Mock the Week Mock the Week has come in for criticism for its male-dominated team line-ups

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Mock the Week host Dara O Briain has criticised the BBC all-male panel ban, saying female guests will now just be seen as "token women".

In a Radio Times interview, O Briain said stand-up comedy naturally tended to have a larger share of male comics.

BBC director of television, Danny Cohen, announced earlier this month that "we're not going to have any more panel shows with no women on them".

O Briain said: "Legislating for a token woman isn't much help."

He added: "It's remarkable that this amount of time is spent debating women on comedy shows rather than, say, Question Time.

"A certain number of women want to go into comedy, and they should be cherished and nurtured, but you're not going to shift the fact that loads more men want to do it."


He said that having a ban on all-male panels meant that "Katherine Ryan or Holly Walsh, who've been on millions of times, will suddenly look like token women".

A BBC spokesman said some panel shows that had been recorded but not yet been broadcast may feature all-male teams, but that all those filmed in the future would include at least one female participant.

Cohen's comments in The Observer came two months after the BBC Trust was reported to have told executives there was "no excuse" for not having more female panellists.

Female comics including Victoria Wood have also criticised "testosterone-fuelled" shows, and Jo Brand has she no longer considered appearing on Mock The Week.

In 2012, writer Caitlin Moran said she had been asked to appear on "all the big panel shows" but turned them down because "I refuse to be the token woman".

"I think that's a boys' game that works for boys," she said.

"It's not like they built it to screw women over, it's just that boys built it so they made it to work for boys. If I go on there as a token woman, it's not going to work for me," she added.

Speaking to BBC 5 live on Tuesday, O Briain clarified his comments further, saying he had "argued for" more female comedians on Mock The Week.

"I have nothing against this idea that there be women on panel shows or indeed that quietly you ask panel shows to make sure there are women on panel shows.

"My only objection was to announcing it."

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