Radio Times has claimed that a “revolution” has taken place in the gender politics of British television with “more and more British women dominating the screens and airwaves both on and off screen”.
The magazine published a “powerlist” of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting, citing presenters Kirsty Wark and Kirstie Allsopp alongside the BBC controllers Charlotte Moore (BBC1) and Kim Shillinglaw (BBC2).
Contrary to previous reports that television is a medium which discriminates against older women, the powerlist was comprised of women aged between 39 and 79, with the exception of actor Sheridan Smith, 33. Among the septuagenarians on the list were Mary Berry, star of The Great British Bake Off, and the actress Anne Reid, who are both 79.
Radio Times said it had decided to draw up the list after interest in the BBC’s choice of female duo Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman as hosts of the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing.
Alison Graham, television editor of Radio Times, said that the controversy surrounding this casting – without a male presenter – showed “just how pitifully slowly television has reacted to the seismic changes in wider society”.
“For more years than I care to remember a woman’s place on television has routinely been on a slab, the decorously eviscerated victim of some serial killer or other,” she said. “But luckily a revolution has been rumbling quietly in the background and it’s now reached the foreground as clever, talented and formidable women prove that our gender provides much more than disposable props.”
The list was chosen by a panel headed by Jenni Murray, presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. Also on the panel was Amanda Berry, chief executive of Bafta, Emma Freud, a founder of Comic Relief, and the quizmaster Richard Osman, co-presenter of BBC1 show Pointless.
The chief executive of Women in Film & Television, Kate Kinninmont, welcomed the list but said it also suggested a lack of women in the production side of the business.
“These names provide a role model for young women who are thinking of coming into the television business and can see that it’s not just female actors who have the chance of careers but also other people behind the scenes,” she said. “But where we don’t have so many women is in writing, directing and the crew. There are no cinematographers, there are no sound people, no editors and no composers.”
Ms Kinninmont, who is a former BBC producer, said that almost all of the women on the list were well known and she would like to see greater analysis of the production credits.
Daisy Goodwin, founder of Silver River Productions, said: “Because there are so many women working in television we think we have sorted it – but I’m still amazed by how few women there are right at the very top.”
The Government’s naming of Rona Fairhead as the potential first female chair of the BBC Trust was “quite revolutionary”, she said. “That has been a job for the boys so I’m delighted it has gone to a woman.” Ms Fairhead’s nomination came too late for the powerlist.
The list in full
- Olivia Colman, actor
- Mary Berry, presenter
- Clare Balding, presenter
- Julie Walters, actor
- Victoria Wood, comedian
- Dawn French, comedian/actor
- Sheridan Smith, actor
- Mary Beard, presenter
- Sarah Lancashire, actor
- Joanna Lumley, actor
- Claudia Winkleman, presenter
- Sarah Millican, comedian
- Kirstie Allsopp, presenter
- Miranda Hart, comedian
- Anne Reid, actor
- Kirsty Wark, presenter
- Heidi Thomas, writer
- Abi Morgan, writer
- Beryl Vertue, producer
- Sue Vertue, producer
- Jay Hunt, chief creative officer, Channel 4
- Sally Wainwright, writer
- Nicola Shindler, founder, Red production company
- Elisabeth Murdoch, founder, Shine production company
- Pippa Harris, co-founder Neal Street Productions
- Charlotte Moore, controller, BBC1
- Helen Boaden, director, BBC Radio
- Anne Mensah, head of drama, Sky
- Hilary Bevan Jones, producer
- Kim Shillinglaw, controller, BBC2