Billie Piper's call girl leads British charge at Europe's top TV awards

Dramas, documentaries and sitcoms from the BBC and Channel 4 account for almost half of all nominations at this year's prestigious Golden Rose festival
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The Independent Online

Billie Piper's turn as a high-class hooker in the television series Secret Life of a Call Girl last year failed to impress the critics for both its dramatic content and rose-tinted look at prostitution. But the judges at this year's Golden Rose television festival in Switzerland beg to differ. Both Piper and the series have been nominated for an award in the annual jamboree which is dominated by British programming.

UK productions account for almost half the nominations from around the world – 37 out of 83 – for awards that are widely considered to be as prestigious as an Oscar or Bafta in the world of television.

It is Britain's public-sector broadcasters, the BBC and Channel 4, that do the best. The UK has six out of 11 nominations for arts documentary, including Channel 4's A Boy Called Alex about a gifted young musician who battles cystic fibrosis. In the drama category, British titles take six out of 10 nominations. The BBC's Jekyll starring James Nesbitt will battle it out with ITV's Secret Life of a Call Girl and the BBC's The Street, written by Jimmy McGovern and starring Timothy Spall. Both Nesbitt and Piper are also nominated in the best entertainer category, along with comedian Peter Serafinowicz.

In the sitcom category BBC3's award-winning Gavin and Stacey will compete with the channel's curve ball The Mighty Boosh starring Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt, which picked up an NME award for best TV show last week.

Luke Johnson, the chairman of Channel 4, said British domination in the awards proves the widely held view that British TV is the best in the world.

"There are a lot of people who think, relative to the size of our economy and population, that we have the best TV in the world," he said. "It is extraordinary that when you go abroad television is often unwatchable. Unquestionably the commercial broadcasters focus primarily on popular programmes. Audience numbers are not our sole criterion. We are able to create programming that has different perspectives, that is not as mainstream, but is worth doing for cultural and creative reasons."

Dawn Airey, director of global content at ITV, added: "The UK traditionally does well. The great thing about it is that it celebrates a whole range of programming, from arts to entertainment. British programmes are leading the world at the moment and producers are at the top of their game. To win a Golden Rose is up there with an Oscar or Bafta."

American television is, however, conspicuous by its poor showing in Europe's oldest TV festival, which takes place in Lucerne in May and is in its 48th year. Only one drama, Life, about a wrongfully imprisoned policeman, is nominated.