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BBC praises its comedy output

The BBC has congratulated itself on its comedy output – but admits that it is struggling to find a mainstream hit for BBC One.

In its annual report published today, the corporation boasted of its success with BBC Three’s comedy programmes in particular – but said viewers found BBC One sitcoms too safe and suburban.

Director-general Mark Thompson said: ‘BBC Three’s progress stands out. The public now rate it as the best channel in the UK for new comedy: like Radio 4, it has become a creative laboratory for developing the talent and ideas that can create hits for BBC One and BBC Two.’

The report included the findings of market research, which found ‘a big demand for more new comedy’ among viewers. Since BBC chiefs received those results, they have pledged extra investment in finding new British comedy.

In the section covering BBC One, the annual report stated: ‘When the BBC gets British comedy right, the rewards in terms of audience appreciation are high. This is well illustrated by Little Britain, the most successful programme to transfer from BBC Three to BBC One.

‘However, our review found some evidence of a legacy of dissatisfaction with BBC One sitcoms seen as “too focused on middle class suburbia” and which compared poorly with sophisticated US imports.’

‘There is ground to be made up here,’ the report conceded, ‘but we are encouraged by the quality of the new BBC comedy starting to come on stream.’

BBC Three’s report also made much of Little Britain, stating: ‘Home-grown television comedy is one of the most difficult genres to get right.

‘In Little Britain, BBC Three has taken an idea originally launched on BBC Radio and developed it into a cult television show that has now broken through into the mainstream (helped by BBC One’s commitment to showcase the best of BBC Three to a terrestrial audience).’

But it also mentioned other innovative comedy successes, giving The Smoking Room, The Mighty Boosh and Nighty Night as examples.

BBC Four has also invested in comedy, with such shows as Armando Iannucci’s political satire The Thick Of It and Marcus Brigstocke’s The Late Edition.

Radio 4 also highlighted comedy as ‘a particular strength, both with long-running titles such as I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue and The News Quiz, and also with successful new offerings such as Clare in the Community.’

The channel is committed to airing 260 hours of comedy a year – but actually transmitted 315 hours.

Digital archive channel BBC 7 also beat its target for comedy, broadcasting 3,649 hours compared to its commitment of 2,800.


Published: 12 Jul 2005

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