Broadcaster Sandi Toksvig has said the BBC turned her down for the job of Have I Got News For You host – because she is a woman.
The presenter, 57, said she was asked to audition for the role 25 years ago.
“They made two pilots – one with me and one with Angus Deayton,” she said of the BBC One show. “I was told by the producers that they preferred my version, but the channel decided they couldn’t have a woman in charge.”
She told Radio Times magazine that she had been angered by the response, and added: “It also made me feel inadequate and question whether I was really up to it.”
Toksvig, who presents Radio 4′s The News Quiz, was later asked to appear as a panellist on the satirical show, which was originally broadcast on BBC Two.
“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,” she said.
Angus Deayton was chosen to present Have I Got News For You (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
Nine years ago Toksvig landed the job of host of The News Quiz, a position from which she is now stepping down.
“I think I was daunted by it. Even nine years ago having a woman in charge of the show seemed quite radical,” she said.
She told the magazine that the morning after her first outing as presenter, the producer rang her to say, “‘Good news: there hasn’t been a single complaint,’ and what he meant was no complaints about a woman presenting.”
Such fun recording the first show in my final series of @TheNewsQuiz and you can hear it tonight!
— Sandi Toksvig (@sanditoksvig) May 15, 2015
She said of her reason for stepping down: “I’m not giving up broadcasting. It’s just, as a presenter, I can’t be seen as overtly political and I do find that restricting.”
Sandi Toksvig decided to get involved with politics (Ryan Phillips/PA)
Toksvig is one of the founding members of the new Women’s Equality Party, which plans to field candidates in the 2020 general election.
She said: “I have made jokes over and over again about politics and I’ve had enough.
“This election, I decided that instead of making jokes about politics I need to take part in it and therefore I can’t make jokes and participate.”
overwhelmed by response to Women’s Equality Party. Just fabulous. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to join the mailing list
— Sandi Toksvig (@sanditoksvig) May 1, 2015
One of the first things she did when she took over The News Quiz was to get rid of the person who kept score. “The listeners never heard her, but she sat right in the middle between the host and the newsreader,” Toksvig said.
“And it’s not even a real quiz. We never needed a scorer at all because the host makes the points up.”
Asked whether the situation is better for women in broadcasting now, she said: “I want to be positive and say yes, but the election coverage was so predominantly male, it made me a bit depressed.”
BBC director of television Danny Cohen pledged last year that the corporation was ‘not going to have any more panel shows with no women on them’, branding the exclusion unacceptable.