Entertainment & Arts

Jason Manford queries BBC over panel show announcement

Jason Manford Image copyright PA
Image caption Manford is currently appearing in a touring production of The Producers

Comedian Jason Manford has called the BBC's decision to "ban" all-male panels on comedy shows "brilliant", but said it should not have been made public.

"I just don't think they should have said it out loud," he told the Radio Times. "Why say it? Just do it.

"By saying it, you're undermining the female on the panel show because now she's thinking, 'Am I here because I'm funny or because they needed one?'"

Danny Cohen, the BBC's director of TV, announced the policy change last year.

"We're not going to have panel shows on anymore with no women on them," he told the Observer. "It's not acceptable."

Last year Mock the Week host Dara O Briain also questioned the way the change was revealed, saying female guests would now just be seen as "token women".

"I have nothing against this idea that there be women on panel shows," he said. "My only objection was to announcing it."

Responding to that criticism, Mr Cohen said he introduced gender rules because some shows were taking too long to catch up.

"It was like pushing water up a hill," he told a BBC panel on diversity last year. "We kept saying it, and it wasn't happening.

"We got to the point where we thought, this is not acceptable anymore, this doesn't reflect the world we live in.

"In a leadership role, I can either keep pushing and hope it's going to evolve, or I can set some really clear examples to provide a beacon for what our expectations are."

'Mediocre' male comics

Manford, soon to be seen in new BBC One drama Ordinary Lies, said he liked female comedians to appear on comedy line-ups as it "makes [the night] better".

"Me and my brother have got some comedy clubs and we always make sure there's a female either on the bill or a female MC, because it just makes blokes act differently.

"When I see a female act who's totally nailing it, I think, 'Well, she's worked harder than most blokes to get to this point,'" he continued.

"That's why you only see brilliant female acts on the telly whereas there's a lot of mediocre male comics on TV. Because there's loads of us."

The former One Show host is currently playing Leo Bloom in a touring production of Mel Brooks's musical The Producers.

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