Four in five comedies fail

But BBC2 boss says £80m is money well spent

BBC2 controller Jane Root has admitted that four out of five new TV comedies fail.

But she says it's part of the corporation's public-service remit to try to find new talent, as ITV is reluctant to risk money in the genre.

In a speech to the Royal Television Society at Bafta last night, she said that her channel had always "captured the zeitgeist" for comedy - from Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in the Sixties to Marion And Geoff, The Kumars and The Office today.

"Of course, these are the ones that work," she said. "We forget the rest.

"All those laugh-out-loud loud jokes which somehow get lost on the way to the screen; those tumbleweed viewings where no one cracks a single smile at the rough cut. And then everyone remembers they have to be somewhere else.

"Current figures suggest that four out of five new comedies struggle.

"As a broadcasting culture we're pretty forgiving of experimentation in documentaries and arts programmes, but there's few second chances for comedy.

"Creating breakthrough new comedy requires real bravery: people with individual voices putting themselves on the line. Legend has it that Caroline Aherne hated the pilot for the Royle Family so much she buried it in her garden.

"Comedy is expensive too. The BBC spent £81 million on this riskiest of genres last year. Hardly surprising, then, that commercial channels aren't exactly queuing up to have a go.

"It's a classic example of market failure, but it falls outside some definitions of public service. In attempting to define public service broadcasting, we risk creating a club into which only some programmes are admitted."

Published: 11 Feb 2004

Today's comedy-on demand picks


From an empty Tyne Theatre in Newcastle, Carl Hutchinson introduces the venue's first live show since the lockdown, featuring an array of North East talent, including Steffen Peddie, Nicola Mantalios-Thompson, Lauren Pattison and Gavin Webster, plus an interview with Chris Ramsey.

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