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Number of TV shows directed by women in decline, report claims

The number of episodes directed by women fell from 27% in 2013 to 24% in 2016. Photo: Shutterstock
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The number of women directing television episodes in the UK is falling, despite multiple strategies intended to improve equality in the industry, according to new research.

A report published by Directors UK found that the number of episodes directed by women fell from 27% in 2013 to 24% in 2016.

During this period, female directors took charge of just one in four television programmes.

The major channels have published diversity and inclusion strategies in recent years, alongside public commitments to diversity, while the equality monitoring scheme Project Diamond was established in 2016 to hold the industry to account.

Despite this, none of the four main UK broadcasters increased their percentage of episodes directed by women over the four-year period.

Channel 4 saw the largest decline, of 5.4 percentage points, between 2013 and 2016.

The report, Who’s Calling the Shots?, is a repeat of a similar study published by Directors UK in 2014, which was the first to gather data on gender inequality in TV directing.

In some areas, where there have been targeted career development initiatives for female directors, the number has grown. These include drama and comedy, and continuing drama.

Directors UK said this was proof that direct interventions help address inequality. It has called for wider-reaching placement schemes to be implemented across all genres of programme-making.

The body has proposed that broadcasters commit 0.25% of their commissioning spend to fund industry access and career development schemes for under-represented groups.

Other recommendations include a demand that Ofcom make it mandatory for all UK broadcasters to monitor and make public their diversity statistics, and that the regulator sets targets for broadcasters so that the make-up of production crews mirrors that of the UK population in terms of gender, ethnicity and disability.

Director Toral Dixit, who is also a Directors UK board member, said: “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.”

A similar report published by the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain in May found that female writers accounted for 28% of all UK television episodes, and just 14% of primetime TV dramas.

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