An all-female line-up on new TV show faces backlash – Twitter responds accordingly

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Susan Devaney
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The editor of the BBC’s new Politics Live TV programme has defended the decision to have an all-female line-up after online criticism. 

Panel shows have been a staple of British TV for over 25 years – from Mock the Week to Newsnight and Have I Got News For You – as a nation we’ve enjoyed tuning into debates and late night discussions from our living rooms.

But, until now, such shows have been predominantly fronted by men.

Take Mock the Week: of the seven comedians that appear on the show, three are permanently male comedians, and the other four are more often than not men, too. And then there’s Have I Got News For You: during its 28-year history, the show has been presented by 11 politicians, but just one – Ann Widdecombe – was a woman.

So you can imagine the commotion that’s been caused by the BBC’s decision to pick an all-female line-up for the first episode of its new lunchtime panel show, Politics Live.

The first episode aired on Monday, featuring MPs Amber Rudd and Emily Thornberry, along with journalists Camilla Tominey and Anushka Asthana and BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg.

However, some people took umbrage to the panel line-up, saying it was “too gimmicky” and “too PC” and even compared it to the chat show, Loose Women

However, the show’s editor, Rob Burley, has since taken to Twitter to defend the panel selection, saying he had “zero shame” for picking five women to front it.

“Banged to rights on that panel today. Just focused on booking women. Any one would do. Ended up with the Shadow Foreign Secretary, a former Home Secretary, the co-Political Editor of the Guardian, an associate Editor of the Daily Telegraph and the BBC’s Political Editor. Sad!” he wrote.

The new show aims to be more diverse and conversational. 

However, the former Labour politician Sarah Hayward called the all-women panel “fantastic”.

“We’re 15 min into Newsnight and the four speakers have all been white men. Still a way to go…”

Others took to Twitter to point out that men suddenly seem to care about gender diversity on panel shows now that they’re in the minority – for once. 

Burly was also quick to point out that the selection was made up of women because they were the best.

“We put out lots of bids for big names in politics and political journalism and the best names we had for show one were women.

“That’s the absolute truth and it shouldn’t be an issue.”

He added: “I have literally zero shame about an all-women panel. Zero. We invited people and they said yes and then we realised our best line-up was all female. If you have a problem with that, you have a problem.”

Burley went on: “I bet those blokes on my timeline incensed about the all-female panel on #politicslive really hated Top Gear.”

We can’t wait to see what episode two will bring…

Images: Getty / Twitter