EastEnders 'is not realistic' says BBC boss

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The Independent Culture

EastEnders is not a realistic portrayal of working-class life in today's East End, the BBC's soap boss has admitted.

John Yorke said the flagship BBC1 drama, which sparked controversy with a baby-swap storyline, contained an "emotional truthfulness".

He told the Radio Times: "Real life changes much more quickly than representations of it on television.

"Soaps reach a point where they have a really big decision to make - do they stay true to the original vision or do they throw it away and adapt to a changing world?

"My own feeling is that the truth lies somewhere in between."

Yorke added: "EastEnders' East End and its version of working-class life are very stylised.

"It's not realistic in that respect, but you look for an emotional truthfulness."

The BBC's controller of drama production admitted that the BBC1 soap "may be significantly white compared with the real East End".

But he added: "It's considerably more multicultural than it was even five years ago and is easily the most multicultural show on telly now."

He said: "We may have had nerves about that at one stage, but we're very proud of it now and you have to keep going."

Coronation Street executive producer Kieran Roberts told the magazine that the ITV1 soap was "sufficiently real".

He said: "Coronation Street presents a warm and cosy version of the world around us - to a degree, it's got nostalgia written through it - but I'm proud of that.

"It's a community that's sufficiently real and sufficiently recognisable that people are drawn to it.

"I doubt there are many streets in Britain that function quite like that, but it's not that alien an existence."

He said: "The ethnic mix is something we're always conscious of.

"Statistically, we're probably getting it about right, but I don't think that's the way you should judge things. It's about how things feel.

"I'd be very worried if viewers - especially viewers from ethnic minorities - were saying they didn't think the show represented them fully."

Tony Warren, who created Coronation Street more than 50 years ago, told the magazine that adults get attached to the show at "low points in their lives", such as during divorce, bereavement, or serious illness.

He added: "They don't necessarily stay with it, but they come back. It's another world, to which audiences escape. It always will be and it always has been."