Parliament ban hits The Daily Show

Commons footage can't be used in satire

An episode of The Daily Show has been banned in the UK – because it contained Parliamentary footage.

More 4 was forced to drop this week’s Global Edition of Jon Stewart’s satire because commons rules say the televised proceedings of the Commons can’t be used in any comedy programmes.

The situation was highlighted by IT Crowd writer Graham Linehan, who brought it up with Channel 4. They replied via Twitter: ‘We are prevented by parliamentary rules from broadcasting parliamentary proceedings in a comedic or satirical context.’

However, the move has raised questions about whether the rule is still relevant. For example, clips can be used in humourous segments within political magazine programmes.

So it is unclear whether a news programme, if it decided to report on the ban on the Daily Show, could then show the footage of the show, that couldn’t be aired on its own.

John O’Farrell, who used to write for Spitting Image, said that More 4 should have defied the ban and broadcast the episode anyway.

Writing in today’s Observer, he said: ‘This is patently ridiculous and More4 should have ignored this arcane code and defied the Palace of Westminster to take action in defence of the undemocratic ban. The channel could have asserted that Jon Stewart's show is a current affairs show so that the context did not apply.’

Ironically, the banned footage actually praises the British Parliamentary system, contrasting the rough questioning David Cameron received – and robustly parried – over the phone hacking scandal with the deference with which the US President is treated.

Stewart concluded that Americans should follow the example of the supposedly genteel Brits, saying that ‘England is awesome’ and joking that America should ‘start drinking some motherfucking tea and eating some motherfucking finger sandwiches.’

The move follows the ban on Australian satire team The Chaser offering a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the Royal Wedding, after the BBC and Prince Charles’s office told broadcaster ABC that the footage could not be used in that way.

Published: 31 Jul 2011

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