Directors UK is calling for broadcasters to commit 0.25% of their commissioning spend to career development and industry access schemes to help close the gender gap.

The call comes in response to research it has carried out revealing a drop in the number of women directors working on UK TV shows. 

The report, Who’s Calling the Shots? A Report on Gender Inequality among Screen Directors working in UK Television, looks at gender inequality in directorial roles across the four main UK freeview 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 television episodes directed by women (from 27.29% to 24.31%).
  • Only 25% 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 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.

Following the launch of Directors UK’s first report in 2014, the association for film and TV directors began working with broadcasters to place women directors in on-set career development placements within continuing drama (soaps). The organization’s latest research reveals that, since then, continuing drama has experienced a 7.3 percentage point increase.

Directors UK proposes the following measures to improve the picture:

  • Broadcasters to commit 0.25% 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% of those being interviewed for senior production roles.

Directors UK Board member and factual director, Toral Dixit (Dispatches), 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% of their commissioning spend across all programmes to fund industry access and career development schemes for underrepresented groups.”