Ellie Peers

WGGB backs call for more women writers in high-end TV

More than 70 female TV writers have complained that primetime TV drama is still overwhelmingly a male preserve, according to an open letter to commissioners.

Their letter was written in response to news that of a list of nine new dramas planned for 2018, only one (an adaptation of Vanity Fair by Gwyneth Hughes) was penned by a woman.

Although there are plenty of experienced women TV writers on children’s and daytime TV, they do “not seem to be ‘graduating’ on to the next-level shows where they could develop their skills further and raise their profiles”, the letter said.

It cited as examples BBC’s Silent Witness, which has employed only five women during its 20-year run and Doctor Who, which had five consecutive series written solely by men.

The writers highlighted the success of programmes written by women, such as Call the Midwife, which attracted an audience of more than 10 million per episode in its first series, Happy Valley and Last Tango in Halifax.

The letter also decried the situation for BAME writers, who were “consistently conspicuous by their absence”.

Writers’ Guild General Secretary Ellie Peers (pictured above) said she had been concerned about a “glass ceiling” for women in high-end drama for several years.

“Once you get past children’s and long-running series, a very small percentage of female writers are breaking through. We believe in equality of opportunity and we support the professional women writers who signed the open letter.”

In May the WGGB is to publish a study of the gender balance of TV and film drama writers over the past decade.

The writers who signed the letter included Bafta-nominated Lisa Holdworth, Co-Deputy Chair of the WGGB, who spoke on Woman’s Hour about the issues faced by women writers. You can hear her interview on the BBC website.

Photo: Reece Lipman @ Chocolate Films