British comedy is being ruined by social media complainers with 'Victorian moral code', says BBC boss

Shane Allen claims social media is 'damaging for a genre which is there to test boundaries'

Sarah Young
Friday 12 April 2019 15:44
Fleabag series 2 trailer

British comedy is being ruined by social media users with a “Victorian moral code”, a BBC boss has said.

Shane Allen, controller of BBC comedy commissioning, spoke about the threat of excessive political correctness as he announced plans to launch the British Comedy Foundation (BCF) – an organisation dedicated to finding comedians from “under-represented” backgrounds.

Allen claimed that the creation of a comedy charter would help to deal with viewer’s who complain about jokes without appreciating their context, particularly around political offence.

“We live in an age where social media can bring comic material to people out of context and without traditional audience expectations having been set,” Allen said in an interview with Broadcast magazine.

“This means a handful of comments or opinions can quickly be taken out of context, which is damaging for a genre which is there to test boundaries and challenge orthodoxies.”

The BBC boss also commented on the fact that, despite producing shows such as Fleabag and Monty Python which represent some of Britain’s “greatest cultural triumphs”, comedy isn’t given the same level of respect as drama.

“We need a body to give dedicated focus and nurture to this crucial part of British cultural life which captures, defines and reflects our national character, identity and soul,” Allen said in a statement to the BBC.

“I want things to change. I think it’s time for the comedy industry to feel its value and exert its influence and potential throughout society.

“I want us to explore what a comedy foundation might look like, who it could unearth, what it could achieve and who’d get behind it. I want it to be valued as an art form and for arts body funding to be opened up to benefit comedy.”

The BCF will be tasked with promoting home-grown comedy and giving the “under-represented and under-privileged” a platform to share their talent.

The scheme follows criticism from audiences that the BBC is too white and middle-class.

In June 2018, Allen declared that the days of Oxbridge male dominance on the BBC were long gone as he introduced a new, diverse range of comedy programmes to the channel.

Reflecting on the 50th anniversary of Monty Python, Allen commented: “If you’re going to assemble a team now it’s not going to be six Oxbridge white blokes.

“It’s going to be a diverse range of people who reflect the modern world."

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