Ian Hislop has defended Have I Got News For You from criticism about male-dominated TV panel shows by saying a lot of women don’t want to appear on the show.

BBC director of television Danny Cohen has pledged that the corporation is “not going to have any more panel shows with no women on them”, branding the exclusion “not acceptable”.

Ian, who has been a team captain on Have I Got News For You since the show first aired in 1990, said: “I think we’re a lot less guilty than other people anyway, because we do have quite a lot of women on and we’ve got a woman producer.

“But you don’t want to get people on who aren’t ready or up to it, and our producer doesn’t want to put token women on, because then when you have really good people, they say, ‘Oh they’re only on because they’re a woman’.

“And you can hardly have Kirsty Young or Jo Brand or any of those people on and then say, ‘Well, it’s only because you’re a woman’. They’re on because they’re really funny.

“A lot of women don’t want to come on, it’s their choice,” he said.

In his new BBC2 series, Ian Hislop’s Olden Days, the 53-year-old broadcaster explores the British love of tradition, and how people use or abuse the past to help shape the present.

Ian credits Have I Got News For You with helping him get the green light for his somewhat loftier TV projects.

“I remember going to the commissioning editor and saying, ‘I really want to do a programme about Victorian philanthropists’ [the 2010 series Age Of The Do-Gooders] and I could see the look on their face thinking, ‘Oh no’.

“But I do get a chance to do things that interest me, and I hope interest everyone else, though you’re never sure.”

Ian Hislop’s Olden Days begins on BBC2 on Wednesday, April 9.

– Press Association