Comedy writer Tavener dies

Creator of R4's Absolute Power

Comedy writer Mark Tavener has died of cancer.

His biggest hit was the satire Absolute Power, about public relations and government spin, ran for four series on Radio 4 before being picked up by BBC Two.

The corporation today reported his death on October 18, but did not give his age.

Taverner hit the headlines three years ago, when he accused the BBC of ‘editorial cowardice’ when it cancelled an episode of Absolute Power which called Tony Blair a liar.

The episode had spin doctor Charles Prentiss, played by Stephen Fry, saying he could do nothing to ‘teach this prime minister about deception, manipulation and lying. Except how to do it properly.’

But the scene was to be broadcast in the wake of the Hutton Report, which criticised the BBC for its coverage of government claims about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.

At the time Taverner said: ‘I was told, “It has been pulled because you can't call Tony Blair a liar in the current climate”.’ But the BBC did eventually broadcast the episode, albeit with cuts

Another episode about the Bin Laden family was dropped from the schedules in 2005, as it was due to air in the week of the London Tube bombings.

The series was based on Taverner's 1989 novel - and he also wrote the Radio 4 Oxbridge satire High Table, Lower Orders, and the award-winning novel, In The Red. His last Radio series, His Master's Voice, co-written with Steve Punt, aired this summer

Radio 4 commissioning editor Caroline Raphael said Taverner would be ‘much missed’.

‘He had a knack of finding situations that chimed with our times and then making listeners roar with delight,’ she said.

‘His work had everything the Radio 4 audience quite rightly demands - wit, intelligence, relevance, intriguing stories and memorable characters.’

Published: 24 Oct 2007

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