Thursday, 30 October 2014

Ending all-male panels - version two


New Pledgebank pledge now live. Please consider signing if you can.

Yesterday I wrote a blog post about ending all-male TV panels.

As part of it, I set up a PledgeBank pledge to try to gain support for collective action. Huge thanks to Paul Cairney, Malcolm Harvey, Gerry Hassan and James Mackenzie for quickly signing up.

However, I also had some constructive conversations with other folk who, while sharing the aim, felt unable to sign the pledge as written for a number of different reasons.
  1. Broadcasters often change the line-up at the last minute, so meeting the pledge may simply be beyond an individual's control.
  2. The definition of a "TV panel" is not immediately obvious.
  3. Restricting the pledge to the TV isn't really necessary.
  4. Even if representation were truly equal, there is a reasonable likelihood that occasionally all-male panels would occur, so they shouldn't be stopped from happening.
I'm going to dismiss the fourth argument. The point of this sort of exercise is to redress the balance and end the status quo. So our aim here is to stop all-male panels from happening until the status quo is fair.

The first three arguments do seem fair. So here's a proposal to deal with them. The pledge becomes:
  • I will refuse to participate in all-male political discussion panels, and make that clear to organisers up-front when asked.
  • If last-minute changes mean I end up on an all-male panel, I will call attention to that fact during the discussion, and make reference to this pledge.
  • A political discussion panel is defined as two or more people plus an interviewer/chair discussing politics or current affairs at a public meeting or on a broadcast network. 
  • The all-male test applies to those participants there to express opinions, not to an interviewer/chair who is not contributing opinion.
That final point is designed to make clear that two men being interviewed by a woman is still an all-male panel.

So, your feedback is requested. Let's try to tweak this into a proposal more men can agree to. Once we've done that, I'll set up a new pledgebank pledge with the new construction, and we'll see if we can make this a reality.

Comments below please, or find me on Twitter at @dhothersall to give your thoughts. Thanks very much.


  1. Hi Duncan,

    Thanks for your willingness to tweak this to allow broader sign-up. Here are a few suggestions:

    In bullet point 1, how about "except where the subject matter justifies it" - eg a discussion about men's health or male identity might make an all male panel reasonable.

    In bullet point 2, can I suggest "I will do my best to call attention..." - I've been on panels where you only get a single opportunity to answer a specific question, with no time available to raise your own points proactively.

    In bullet point 3, I think it ought to apply to panels of three or more. Including 1-to-1 discussions would prohibit debates between people chosen specifically for their role or track record. For example if I was asked to debate the Catholic Church's opposition to the Assisted Suicide Bill (as the member in charge of it) against a priest, the question of gender balance would be entirely impossible to address.

  2. Thanks Patrick.

    Your first point seems pretty fair.

    Not quite sure of the 2nd. Feels like too easy an out. How about adding "If unable to call attention during the panel, I will comment publicly on it as soon as possible afterwards."?

    It strikes me that the instance you cite in the third point is kinda covered by the first point. The reason I said 2 was that I was thinking of scenarios like the end piece of Scotland 2014. Not sure we can sign a pledge of this nature and then be uncomplaining if that slot is filled by male duos. Thoughts on a way around this welcome.

    Thanks again.

  3. How about when men sign up to appear they do so on the basis that the panel won't be all male, *and* with the proviso that if yhe broadcaster changes this at the last minute they explain this on air. It wouldn't have to take long, "we did invite x to appear but unfortunately she was unable to attend".

    1. The only issue I have with this is it risks becoming a shaming exercise rather than a constructive one. But perhaps we can trust broadcasters/organisers to phrase it appropriately.

  4. Me again. Also I agree with duncan point 3 is covered by point 1.