Climate of fear silences comics

...says Have I Got News For You producer

Television comedians are censoring themselves because of a culture of fear at the BBC, according to one of the most respected producers in comedy.

Jimmy Mulville blamed director general Mark Thompson for creating at atmosphere in which edgy material gets nowhere near the screen.

He said that jokes that have previously aired on Have I Got News For You, which is made by his company Hat Trick, would not even be discussed as a possibility in the current post-Sachsgate climate.

Speaking at the Edinburgh television festival, Mulville said: ‘The atmosphere now is one of retrenchment. My worry is that we’re now having our tastes set at a dial by the tabloid press.

‘I’m not saying that it’s anyone’s fault at the BBC except for, probably, Mark Thompson. The fish rots from the head down.’

In video shown at the festival, Stephen Fry also attacked the ‘compliance’ culture – such as the editorial decisions to ban scenes showing criminals talking on their mobiles as they drive.

‘I know it happens to be illegal, but it’s also illegal to shoot people in the face,’ he said. It’s called compliance. Compliance with what, with being an arsehole? Compliance with stupidity?

‘It makes me want to explode with fury – and the awful thing is that the producers of these programmes comply.’

Published: 31 Aug 2009

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