Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Guild concern over BBC's rejection of Churchill play

Following reports that the BBC has rejected the possibility of a radio production of Caryl Churhcill's play Seven Jewish Children, the Guild has issued the following press release:
The Writers' Guild expresses its concern that the BBC has turned down a proposal to broadcast a stage play criticising Israel's invasion of Gaza on the grounds that, if it did so, it would need to broadcast another play giving the opposite point of view.

Caryl Churchill's ten minute play, Seven Jewish Children, aroused controversy when it was performed at the Royal Court earlier this year. In an email to the producer who proposed the idea, Radio Four's drama commissioning editor Jeremy Howe said that, although he and the head of Radio Four thought it was a "brilliant piece", the BBC could not broadcast the play "on the grounds of impartiality". Howe said that "it would be nearly impossible to run a drama that counters Caryl Churchill's view".

Guild President David Edgar comments: "The BBC has a right to employ its editorial judgement in accepting or rejecting proposals for dramas, and it has a duty to be impartial across the range of its output. But to reject what it regards as a 'brilliant' play on the grounds that it would need to balance it with another play putting the opposing point of view establishes a dangerous precedent.

"In future, does this mean that Radio Four will have to balance a play critical of complacency about global warming with another play arguing that the risk is grossly exaggerated? Will plays attacking sexism be complemented by plays promoting it? Would a drama claiming that Margaret Thatcher was a great prime minister be necessarily followed by another arguing that she was a national disaster?

"There is an alarming increase in spurious arguments for censoring controversial subject matter in drama.. The BBC should be proud when the dramas it chooses to broadcast contribute to important national and international debates".


  1. David Edgar couldn't have put it better. The BBC is getting so "P.C." that it's in danger of trying to make omelettes without breaking or even buying eggs. The spurious criteria exercised by the BBC of late is worthy of "Waiting For Godot." Jonathan Ross was saved; Carol Thatcher was damned. The BBC's impartiality was saved; a play they themselves deemed a "brilliant piece" was damned.

    I'm not saying throw caution to the winds and have a free-for-all on air. But somehow the BBC Radio and Television have managed to make cultural masterpieces over the past 80+ years without this constant climate of fear. Can we please get back to the main criteria for programme making being excellence? There's a novel idea.

  2. Anonymous9:18 pm

    Surely, to keep the BBC happy, Caryl Churchill could have knocked out another ten minute play entitled Seven Hamas Children.
    The BBC should-
    Tell Her, a playwright should show both sides of a conflict.
    Tell Her, that what went on in Gaza deserves more than a ten minute freebee piece of Propaganda.
    Tell Her, her impartiality is showing.
    Tell Her, It is not a brilliant play!

  3. Anonymous5:07 pm

    This is not an isolated stand within the BBC.

    They say the BBC had only just "survived" their refusal to show the Gaza appeal advert on grounds that it would breach their impartiality and therefore couldn't risk Caryl's play. "Survival"? The BBC are just flattering us with the notion of impartiality, they are not threatened by Left wing, Artistic, humanitarian, nor even charitable opinions, but by those who seek to justify the invasion of Gaza.

    I wish we had equal sway over the BBC then they might have been reporting various attempts to reach Gaza with humanitarian aid and of course the war crimes that even Israeli soldiers now admit took place.

    It is not "impartial" to refuse humanitarian aid, or legitimate opinion, or artistic interpretation, it is more akin to a form of "holocaust denial".


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