Saturday 9 January 2016

Is BBC Radio 4 comedy getting less biased?

There's a characteristically considered and fair-minded piece by Sarah AB over at Harry's Place discussing "the BBC, the resignation - and comedy Corbyn" which I'd urge you to read when you have a moment. 

She thinks that Labour is "certainly making too much of a meal of this", but doesn't wholly agree with "those scoffing that there was absolutely nothing noteworthy - or irritation-worthy - (from Labour's point of view) about the way the news broke"...

...which is pretty much my position on the matter too.

She's certainly no Corbynista herself, but she also thinks that the BBC could have a bit of an issue with anti-Corbyn bias... does parts of the BBC it seems, from Nick Robinson to the heads of the BBC's Comedy department who told Dame Edna Everage not to make a Corbyn joke unless she also made a Cameron joke. 

It gets even more interesting though...

The most striking part of her piece though concerns the perennial issue of .BBC comedy and BBC bias' (a Jeremy hardy perennial issue you might say): 
We’re rather more used to hearing of Radio 4 comedy’s supposed left wing bias; stalwarts such as Mark Steel and Jeremy Hardy are decidedly to the left, and there are regular grumbles about the cosy left liberal consensus on shows such as The Now Show and The News Quiz.  However a couple of recent programmes certainly demonstrate no pro-Corbyn bias. 
Dead Ringers presented an end of the year edition set in the year 2020.  One sketch presented a programme called ‘Who remembers the Labour Party’, presented by Caroline Aherne (from 13:40). To be fair, this sketch has several targets (we learn that George Osborne revealed his true lizard form in 2018) – and readers may like to go to 16:20 to find out who replaces Corbyn as Labour Party leader. 
A bit sharper, perhaps, was the latest edition of the News Quiz.  This opens with Francis Wheen (a signatory of the Euston Manifesto, incidentally) making fun of the Radio 4 injunction not to single out Corbyn for satire – ‘he’s not as other politicians – he’s the Messiah or something’. Susan Calman and Zoe Lyons are both very scathing about Emily Thornberry’s appointment as Defence Secretary (from 5:00).  Miles Jupp summed up mercilessly:
It really was a thrilling couple of days as a large number of people understudying jobs they’re never going to actually do waited anxiously to find out if they were going to be asked to understudy different jobs that they’re never going to actually do … Corbyn promised a politics that would be more familiar to the lives of everyday working people and he has delivered. The Shadow Cabinet now reflects the lives of everyday Britons incredibly closely, forcing them to work in jobs they never wanted for a boss they openly hate.
We've praised Dead Ringers as 'the exception that proves the rule' here several times before vis a vis 'BBC left-wing comedy' - especially for their hilarious mockery of Ed Miliband and George Galloway (alongside many a popshot at Nigel Farage and David Cameron) - but for The News Quiz to finally break free of its recent unbalanced left-wing ways and embrace a much more even-handed approach to its satirical targeting would be great news indeed. 

I've didn't listen to the last series of The News Quiz but I read a fair few comments at Biased BBC late last year saying that Miles Jupp had brought a marked improvement to the show (on the 'bias' front) after replacing Sandi Toksvig, so this opinion seems to extend across the political spectrum of the blogosphere. 

We'll have to see where this is leading of course.

Will this apparent commitment to increased balance by the makers of BBC Radio 4 Comedy be spread across the board? Will it lead to more varied commissioning (politically-speaking)? Will The Now Show be re-made? Will Marcus Brigstocke be required to bash Jeremy Corbyn and Caroline Lucas as well as Nigel Farage and David Cameron every time he appears on the BBC? And, more tellingly, will be be required to bash political figures from the centre-left (Brownites, Blairites, whatever)?

We live in interesting times -  as that politically correct mayor of Cologne might have said while dressed up as a 'Chinawoman' for carnival recently (much to the astonishment of the BBC's Samira Ahmed):


  1. It seems to me all about Charter renewal. The news Quiz can now be listened too now that Sandi Toksvig has left to persue a political carrer.

    Christopher Scopes

    1. Maybe there should be an annual charter review to keep them permanently on their toes.

  2. Can they buy Bordertown from Fox? Worth it for the lampooning of the SJW types alone.

  3. I agree about Dead Ringers. It's nicely even handed I think, although even it is probably too tame to say take on the lies of asylum seekers. The only person I've seen do that (in a gentle way) was Lee Mack in a v. funny scene where he is won over by the improbable tale of woe from a refugee.

  4. The last episode of the News Quiz certainly didn't reveal a more balanced attitude. It was horrifically left wing.

  5. And continues to be, at the expense of genuine, clever, humour. Too many "right on" comedians whose humour is not only left wing but rather crude and simple.... and sometimes rather racist against other EU countries.

  6. i would point out that the real issue is mocking political beliefs as opposed to individuals and their competency. I don't think I have ever heard radio 4 comedians attack leftwing mock corbyn for being a crap leader is not the same as attacking conservatives for their policies or beliefs.


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