Tuesday, October 20, 2020
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David Keighley’s BBC Watch: The BBC doesn’t bother to disguise its contempt for Farage

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So finally, then, the BBC is going to make a programme about Nigel Farage.

Not – as might maybe expected from the UK’s main public service broadcaster – a documentary explaining his remarkable role over 20 years in triggering the UK’s exit from the European Union.

That’s not yet in the pipeline. The Corporation is still far too busy finding different ways of telling us what a mistake Brexit is. Monday’s Today programme, for example, had an Oxford historian commenting on whether it was a foreign policy disaster that ranked with Suez.

No, instead, the boys and girls in the BBC so-called comedy department – fresh from this week’s disastrous re-make of Are You Being Served? – have in mind something a bit more in keeping with their thoughts about the former Ukip leader.

For those who did not have the doubtful pleasure of seeing the Grace Brothers’ revival episode, Michael Horgan, the Daily Telegraph’s TV reviewer is helpfully to hand. Among his comments were that it ‘crammed innuendos into the script with a crowbar’, and he then noted:

‘It was 12 minutes before candyfloss-haired Mrs Slocombe (played by a gurning, hammy Sherrie Hewson) made the first reference to her pussy and 17 minutes until Mr Humphries (Jason Watkins) trilled “I’m free”. Both were greeted with cheers yet it wasn’t enough to save this turgid, interminable half-hour.’

What Horgan didn’t say was that the script, by Benidorm writer Derren Litten, also converted the department store’s Young Mr Grace into a nasty speculative, people-hating opportunistic, capitalist who could have walked straight out of the pages of Jeremy Corbyn’s ’nationalise everything’ policy manual. How very, very BBC.

So what do the comedy department plan for Farage? According to the Radio Times, it’s a jolly one-off ‘special’ called Nigel Farage Gets His Life Back, and it will feature ‘the former politician coping with life out of the limelight’.

Now, of course, it may be that something very funny is on the drawing board. And politicians must expect to be the target of satire and mickey-taking as part of being held to account.

The BBC news department – and especially presenters such as Evan Davis – have always faithfully delivered in this respect. They have with clockwork reliability in dozens of interviews treated Farage as something of a a joke, and mechanically – even maniacally – asked questions about him being the BNP in blazers, a one-trick wonder, and worse.

Former BBC perennial presenter Sandi Toksvig – whose mindset underpins much of BBC comedy – was also in on the act, though a touch less subtly. She compared Farage to Hitler at the Hay literary festival.

Something in this equation of Farage + the BBC + comedy sets special alarm bells ringing. One clue is that ‘insiders’ told the Radio Times that his character was already being described as a ‘cross between Basil Fawlty and Enoch Powell.’

A second flash of warning comes from Kevin Bishop, the actor/comedian who has been selected to play Farage. He told the Radio Times:

‘Nigel Farage is the gift that keeps on giving…there is the moustache and now the appearance at the Trump rally, it’s going to be fun’.

Now, of course that might be true. But somehow, in a ‘spoof’ project emanating from the BBC, that juxtaposition suggests that ‘fun’ is likely to be the perennial, wearisome innuendos about of racism and right-wing extremism that have been the hallmark of the Corporation’s entire treatment of Farage.

Craig Byers, of Is the BBC Biased?, has observed:

‘And yes, alas, apparently his wife really will be brought into the mockery too. Which other well-known politician would the BBC do this to? Astonishingly, reports even say, “If the episode is a success it could be given the green light to be turned into a full series”. Just imagine that with your ‘BBC impartiality’ hats on!’

Quite. The BBC would do this to no other politician. Not even Jeremy Corbyn.

(Image: Hakon07)

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David Keighleyhttp://news-watch.co.uk
Former BBC news producer, BBC PR executive and head of corporate relations for TV-am. Director of News-watch.

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