Comedian and broadcaster Sandi Toksvig has claimed that the BBC didn’t choose her as the original host of satirical TV news quiz show Have I Got News for You, due to the fact she was a woman.
In an interview with the Radio Times, she revealed that both she and Angus Deayton (later chosen as the programme’s host) were asked to audition for the role 25 years ago:
“They made two pilots – one with me and one with Angus Deayton. I was told by the producers that they preferred my version, but the channel decided they couldn’t have a woman in charge. It also made me feel inadequate and question whether I was really up to it”
Regarding Angus Deayton, who hosted the programme until 2006, she commented:
“I thought Angus was very good and he’s an extremely nice chap. But I would not have been caught with either prostitutes or cocaine, so… possibly I would have been a better bet in the long run.”
Toskvig later became host of the satirical BBC Radio 4 programme The News Quiz, a position from which she has just stepped down. She revealed she felt ‘daunted’ by the prospect of taking over when she first helmed the programme nine years ago, as the idea of a woman presenter still seemed ‘quite radical’. She added that a producer had rang her after her first appearance on the programme to say there ‘hadn’t been a single complaint’ about a woman presenting.
When asked whether the situation was better for women in broadcasting now, she acknowledged that improvements had been made, but expressed her disappointment at the fact the BBC’s coverage of the last General Election was ‘predominantly male’. Toksvig is also a founding member of the Women’s Equality Party, which plans to field candidates in the 2020 General Election.
The BBC’s current director of television, Danny Cohen, said last year that the BBC would no longer have panel shows without female panellists as this was ‘unacceptable’. A BBC spokesman has since said that the corporation was proud of the number of female presenters it now has across all its media outlets.
Watch Toksvig as a guest star on the original series of Have I Got News For You, below.