BBC Launches Competition for Multicultural Writers As Its Sitcoms Are Branded ‘Too Middle Class’

Tamara Cohen, Daily Mail (London), August 20, 2010

The BBC has launched a competition to find multicultural sitcoms because the BBC is perceived to be ‘too white and middle class’.

In a new political correctness row, comedy executives have called on writers who feel their lives are under-represented to submit the first ten pages of a sitcom to the BBC.

The winner of the contest may get the chance to pen a series.

It is run by the BBC College of Comedy which launched in 2008 to help new writers develop their careers.

Creative head of the college Micheal Jacob, who is the executive producer of the sitcom My Family starring Zoe Wanamaker told The Stage yesterday: ‘I think there is a feeling perhaps that the BBC is a closed door for writers who are not necessarily white middle class.

‘I wanted to say the door is open and that we want to find shows that reflect the fact Britain is a multicultural society. We hope the competition will attract entries from writers who may feel their lives are not currently reflected in television comedy.’

The BBC will have exclusive rights to develop the scripts, with the possibility of a commission further down the line.

The move follows criticism of the BBC in 2008, when Extras producer Charlie Hanson claimed the number of black people working in creative positions had not changed in 15 years, particularly within the comedy department.

Politicians have criticised the scheme, although it is not clear what the criteria for entry are.

Philip Davies, MP for Shipley, said: ‘I think licence fee payers will be appalled to be subsidising a politically correct competition like this.

‘We just want high quality programming irrespective of race or background. These things should be colour blind and awarded on merit.’

The initiative All Mixed Up is in collaboration with Triforce Promotions, an organisation formed by black actors Fraser Ayres and Jimmy Akingbola, which aims to promote talent from a range of backgrounds.

Jacob said he wanted to ‘tap into their network’ as part of the competition which opens on August 31.

The best six scripts will be performed by a professional cast at London’s Soho Theatre on December 4 and the winner, decided by a panel of BBC executives, will get a £1,000 prize.

Former director-general Greg Dyke famously described the BBC’s workforce as ‘hideously white’ in 2004 and caused a positive discrimination storm over plans to fast track ethnic staff into managerial positions.

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