Beeb puts comedy first

DG says: 'It's as vital as news'

Comedy is to receive a huge boost across the BBC, with its new director-general promising it will be given the same priority as news.

In his first public speech since he was appointed in June, Mark Thompson said the corporation should make the genre a priority for financial investment and airtime.

Speaking at the Edinburgh Television Festival, he said: “To me, the BBC’s role in comedy is just as pivotal as its role in news.

“Comedy has been a central audience expectation of the BBC for decades but our investment in and promotion of comedy is probably more important today than it has ever been.

“It is becoming increasingly hard for commercial broadcasters to justify the opportunity-cost of the money and airtime involved.

“Although comedy is a branch of entertainment, I still think most people would accept that it, too, plays a critical part in reflecting our national culture and the way we live now. The Office is just one instance of that.”

Thompson also cited Little Britain as a ratings hits that also reflected British culture, and said the BBC would use Radio 4 and BBC Three to breed a new generation of comedy stars.

And he said funding for the drive to create new comedy would come back from cutting back on “derivative and tired” makeover and reality shows.

His announcement comes as the BBC’s charter comes up for renewal, which puts its public service role and the licence fee under the spotlight.

Published: 30 Aug 2004

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