Where are all the right-wing comics?

Radio 4 struggles to find balance

Radio 4 has admitted it ‘struggles’ to find enough right-wing comedians to provide political balance to its comedy shows.

Commissioning editor Caroline Raphael says she’s constantly on the look-out for comics to counter what’s often seen as a left-wing bias on shows such as The News Quiz... but finds it difficult.

‘It’s very difficult to find comedians from the right,’ she admitted, even though producers, ‘spend a lot of time in the comedy clubs looking for people with a range of views’.

She added that ‘there isn’t a tradition’ among stand-ups to take a right-wing view, saying: ‘Possibly the right feels more comfortable with a pen and paper and the left standing up on a soapbox or in a comedy club. I don’t know, but it’s something we struggle with.’

Raphael was speaking on Radio 4’s audience opinion show Feedback yesterday, which featured listeners’ complaints about Jeremy Hardy’s political stance as his stand-up show returned to the station.

One complained that Jeremy Hardy Speaks To The Nation was little more than ‘prejudiced, extreme left-wing views’ and ‘what appeared to be a party political broadcast for the Communist Party’.

But Raphael countered: ‘He takes a lot of swipes at a lot of targets including, actually himself. The target of satirists will always be those in power.’

And she added that there was nothing wrong with airing a polemical show without balancing ever opinion aired.

‘The BBC’s responsibility to creative people is slightly different from its responsibility to impartiality,’ she said. ‘I would argue that there are very clever views about Ed Miliband and the Lib Dems as well as the Conservatives [in Hardy’s show].’

She also told presenter Roger Bolton that The News Quiz was a different beast from other topical comedy shows on Radio 4, especially The Now Show, and allowed for more provocative content.

‘The News Quiz is very much the chair asking people for their own personal views. The Now Show is very scripted and they are presenting a view very much as a performer, as an actor with a script – albeit their script – rather than a very personal of-the-moment response.’

She said was trying out more right-wingers on the News Quiz, after putting out a call on Feedback several years ago for names. ‘But we’re not seeing them come through,’ she said, suggesting the ‘very exposed’ nature of the show might deter right-wing writers not used to performing to an audience.

Last month, Peter Hitchens used his Mail on Sunday column to claim the ‘blatantly biased’ News Quiz’s derision of Conservative politicians was the first step to ‘the torture cellar, the re-education camp and the firing squad’.

He took issue with a ‘purported comedian’ who said Education Secretary Michael Gove had ‘a  face that makes even the  most pacifist of people reach for the shovel in  anticipation of reshaping it’.

The said that a BBC programme ‘publicly discussing smashing a man’s face with a shovel’ was not a joke but ‘a symptom of a raging sickness of the soul that has the modern left in its grip’.

Hitchens added: ‘They are so sure that they are right that they no longer think their opponents are human.’

Published: 9 Mar 2013

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