North Korea wants our television: Under Kim Jong-un, TV is pretty grim. But now the Supreme Leader is considering sampling the delights of Top Gear, Tinky Winky and Doctor Who

The decision follows a BBC initiative last year, supported by the Foreign Office, to draw up a list of programmes that the country might consider obtaining

It is the world's most isolated country, a place where the weekly television highlight is It's So Funny, a long-running comedy show in which two uniformed soldiers perform slapstick sketches in between lectures about the greatness of Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un.

Now, however, hope – or at least variety – is at hand for the people of North Korea. After months of negotiations with the British government, the totalitarian dictatorship has finally selected three BBC programmes that the state is willing to consider showing its people: Dr Who, Top Gear and Teletubbies.

"Extensive enquiries have been made about what these three shows involve and if they would be suitable for the [North] Korean people," a Pyongyang insider explained. "Anything too political was not suitable but these are entertainment shows, and one of them is for young children."

The decision follows a BBC initiative last year, supported by the Foreign Office, to draw up a list of programmes that the North Koreans might consider obtaining. At the time, the Foreign Secretary William Hague hailed it as "a good way to improve understanding about the outside world within such a closed society".

Negotiations with the closely controlled state proved tortuous, however. A delegation from the North Korean embassy in London visited the Foreign Office to discuss the proposal, but months were then spent selecting the three shows as worthy of consideration.

Jeremy Clarkson and co may be exported to North Korea Jeremy Clarkson and co may be exported to North Korea A report has been written on each of them to be sent to Pyongyang. No timescale has been given for when an answer is expected, although the British embassy in the North Korean capital is helping to facilitate contact between the BBC's commercial wing, BBC Worldwide, and local broadcasting authorities.

The BBC would not comment on what shows were chosen or why "until or unless an agreement is concluded". But the Doctor Who Appreciation Society had no doubt the timelord's adventures would prove a hit. "If there are children and young adults in North Korea who like the excitement of science fiction and the ability to tell a different story every week," said leading Whovian Antony Wainer, "they'll like Doctor Who."

The country's state broadcaster, Korean Central Television, is only on air for six and a half hours every night. A third of the output is spent praising the government, while another third extols workers to toil harder for the affection of the Dear Leader. Any UK programmes would likely be edited to ensure the removal of ideologically improper elements.

It was reported last month that male university students are being instructed to get the same haircut as Kim Jong-un, though the claim has no reliable source. But the appearance of those on screen is closely regulated, with television news readers required to have specific haircuts and wear certain colours.

The watching of non-sanctioned programmes is harshly punished. Eighty people were reportedly shot recently for crimes that included being caught with pirated copies of South Korean programmes. Such penalties have failed to dampen demand, however, perhaps explaining the regime's willingness to consider foreign exports and so make its own channels more popular. Many North Koreans store foreign programmes on USB sticks, which can be pulled out and hidden from police if required.

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'