Comedians react after report BBC is planning to cut down on ‘left-wing’ comedy

New director general is apparently set to address perceptions of ‘left-wing bias’ among the broadcaster’s comedy offerings

Roisin O'Connor
Tuesday 01 September 2020 14:00 BST
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Shows similar to Russell Howard’s ‘Good News’ could be thinned out
Shows similar to Russell Howard’s ‘Good News’ could be thinned out

Tim Davie, the new director-general of the BBC, is reportedly planning to tackle perceived “left-wing bias” in the corporation’s comedy sector.

Mr Davie’s first speech in his new position on Thursday will reveal plans to restore “trust and confidence” in the BBC, according to The Daily Telegraph.

There could be an expectation of BBC programme-makers to find a more “balanced” list of satirical targets for comedians, as opposed to jokes that consistently take aim at the Conservatives.

There is apparently also concern that too many BBC comedy shows promote a London-centric and left-wing view of the world.

Tory MP Ben Bradley said: “In recent years lots of BBC comedy shows are just constant left-wing rants about the Tories and Brexit. If the BBC is to truly represent all licence fee payers, that needs to change.”

A number of prominent voices on social media reacted to the report.

Writer Simon Blackwell, known for his work on political comedy shows including The Thick of It and Veep, said the “upper echelons of the BBC have never really given two s***s about comedy”.

“News, they love; documentaries, of course; sport, yes; drama, sure, if you insist. But comedy? It’s an array of glass offices full of Margot Leadbetters asking, ‘Why is it funny, Jerry?’”

“Comedy about the party who is in charge of the country & at a time when everything is clearly going so bloody well MUST BE STOPPED. Communist-edians Out!” joked Irish comedian Aisling Bea.

LBC presenter James O’Brien commented: “What exactly is ‘right-wing’ or ‘left-wing’ comedy? I appreciate that blatantly racist ‘jokes’ are still broadly unacceptable on TV but unless the new BBC chairman is unfairly conflating ‘right-wing’ with ‘racist’, I’m not sure what he’s talking about. Lots of headlines though...”

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“The only pieces of satire I can think of that have contributed to real political change during my lifetime were right-wing: Boris Johnson’s dispatches from Brussels in the 1990s,” said writer Jonathan Coe. “They helped sow the seeds for Brexit and their author is now prime minister.”

Author Philip Pullman responded to Coe: “I think satire is intrinsically conservative, in that it relies on a common acceptance of moral standards which it mocks its targets for falling away from. Satire can’t exist in a world of moral relativity. Private Eye was right-wing from the start.”

Mr Davie has taken over as BBC director general from Tony Hall, who spent seven years in the role.

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