The US comedian Jon Stewart, host of the Daily Show, has mocked laws which forced the More 4 channel to censor an edition of his satirical show in the UK because it contained footage of Parliamentary proceedings.
A Daily Show segment about the phone hacking scandal, which included a clip of David Cameron facing hostile MPs at the Despatch Box, was banned under laws which forbid Commons footage being screened on British television if it is being used in a “comedic or satirical context”.
Criticising the ban on the Daily Show, Stewart said: “I’ve seen Parliamentary footage used in satirical shows in Britain before.” He then introduced a classic Spitting Image sketch of Margaret Thatcher dealing with a rowdy Commons.
After being told that the clip actually featured puppets, Stewart joked that they looked “somewhat healthier” than the real incumbents.
Stewart complained that if he had introduced Commons footage as “the Rt Hon Newscaster” and “solemnly said to camera, ‘Tonight we have no confirmation that those MPs are baby-eating goat f***ers, but we have not received or asked for any denials’…a British audience would have been able to watch.”
The broadcaster had also been banned from parodying Westminster Abbey footage from the Royal Wedding. He could understand “not being able to poke fun at a vestigial, powerless anachronism, populated by the most recent incarnation of a centuries-long experiment known as English nobility.”
But he asked if the “people’s Parliament…the most basic expression of British democracy is too fragile to withstand a gentle parody, a good natured kick to the clotted creams?” Stewart had actually used the footage to praise the robust Parliamentary system in his original show.
The Stewart mockery came as Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, announced a relaxation of copyright rules to permit comedians to produce web parodies of other people’s work. The Broadcasting rules however will still remain.
The restrictive rules on the use of photography and filming on the Parliamentary estate were recently highlighted when a BBC producer had his pass suspended for chasing after Rupert Murdoch’s foam pie assailant.