BBC comedy budgets hit

American arm withdraws funding

BBC comedy budgets are set to be squeezed further after the corporation’s commercial US channel has announced that it won’t be investing in any new shows.

Cable channel BBC America has previously contributed to the making of The Office, The Thick Of It, Jam & Jerusalem and Love Soup.

However, executives in the US believe that helping to finance British comedies has little benefit for them, citing the fact the six-episode series UK shows tend to make are too short to in the American market.

Their decision has led to fears that the BBC, which is already facing a below-inflation licence fee rise, will be increasingly unable to afford to make comedy programmes.

One of the first sitcoms to be hit by the decision is Beautiful People, about a boy growing up in Reading. The show, written by Gimme Gimme Gimme creator Jonathan Harvey, is being produced by former BBC head of comedy Jon Plowman.

A spokeswoman for BBC America, which is not funded by the licence fee, told MediaGuardian: ‘Pre-investing in titles with no guarantee of more than six episodes isn't a sound business for a cable channel trying to build audience in a 200-channel environment.’

However, the channel will continue to buy in British comedies if it thinks they will be a success. BBC America is currently airing Not Going Out, Spaced, Gavin & Stacey and The Catherine Tate Show.

Published: 28 Jun 2008

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