Advanced Television

Report: 1 in 4 UK TV shows directed by women

August 22, 2018

Directors UK is calling for broadcasters to commit 0.25 per cent of their commissioning spend for all programme making to fund career development and industry access schemes to close the gender gap, in response to research revealing a drop in the number of women directors working in UK television.

The recommendation comes from a report from Directors UK which looks at gender inequality in directorial roles across the four main UK broadcasters (BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5). The research found:

  • All broadcasters showed a decline in the percentage of episodes directed by women between 2013 and 2016.
  • A decline of 2.98 percentage points in the share of TV episodes directed by women (from 27.29 per cent to 24.31 per cent).
  • Only 25 per cent of episodes broadcast were directed by women.
  • Factual programming showed the most significant decrease, by 9.8 percentage points. Children’s programming came second with a 4.5 percentage point decline.
  • On the positive side, Multi-camera & Entertainment increased by 2.8 percentage points and Drama & Comedy showed an increase of 4.3 percentage points. These are two areas where there have been targeted career development initiatives for women directors delivered by Directors UK in partnership with Creative Skillset.

The report revealed that despite the publication of the broadcasters’ diversity and inclusion strategies and the introduction of equality monitoring through Project Diamond, run by the Creative Diversity Network, the gender gap increased across all four channels. Channel 4 saw a 5.4 percentage point decline in the number of episodes directed by women between 2013 and 2016, while Channel 5 experienced a 2.9 percentage point drop. In the same period, BBC and ITV saw a 1.8 and 1.5 percentage point decline respectively.

Furthermore, following the launch of Directors UK’s first report in 2014, the professional association began working with broadcasters to place women directors in on-set career development placements within Continuing Drama (soaps). The latest research reveals that, since then, Continuing Drama has experienced a 7.3 percentage point increase.

These results suggest that positive interventions do help to address inequality and, as a result, Directors UK is calling for wider-reaching placement schemes to be implemented across all genres of programme making.

Directors UK is now proposing a number of recommendations within the report to help improve equality, transparency and accountability:

  • Broadcasters to commit 0.25 per cent of their commissioning spend across all programme making as a levy to fund industry access and career development schemes for underrepresented groups.
  • Ofcom to make it mandatory for all UK broadcasters to monitor and publicly report their diversity characteristics of all those making programmes for them, to include freelancers as well as permanent staff. And for broadcasters to monitor and publish the equality data of senior production roles such as producers, writers and directors as well as the heads of departments
  • Ofcom to set broadcasters targets to use production crews whose gender, ethnic and disability makeup mirrors that of the UK population, both in front of and behind the camera, by 2020.
  • Hirers to commit to fairer recruitment practices in line with other industries to improve equal access to opportunities for all; in particular, externally advertising roles, the introduction of written references for freelance production staff and a requirement for women to make up 50 per cent of those being interviewed for senior production roles.

Directors UK Board member and factual director, Toral Dixit (Dispatches, World’s Greatest Bridges, What do Artists Do All Day, Mammoth – Back from the Dead), commented: “It is not acceptable that women make up one third of working directors in the UK but only direct one in four television programmes. To generate a shift towards gender equality, broadcasters must embrace positive interventions across all genres and deliver fair and transparent hiring practices for both freelancers and staff. Targets must be set and tracked through mandatory monitoring so successes can be built on and replicated across the industry.”

Directors UK CEO Andrew Chowns added: “While the overall decline is very disappointing, results in Continuing Drama show that collaborative interventions made in partnership with broadcasters and production partners do work to unlock new opportunities for women directors by developing skills and building expertise. These workplace initiatives must now become more widely available, so we are asking broadcasters to commit 0.25 per cent of their commissioning spend across all programmes to fund industry access and career development schemes for underrepresented groups.”


Categories: Articles, Content, Production, Research