Monday, November 02, 2009

Tony Marchant had to take BBC compliance training

An extraordinary story by Chris Hastings in The Times (link via @julianfriedmann @DreamsGrafter on Twitter): Tony Marchant was required to sit the BBC's 'Safeguarding Trust factual drama interactive module' last month.

Nothing strange about that, you might think. Until you hear about some of the content.
[Marchant] now has a certificate that congratulates him on passing the test and provides helpful tips such as: “Don’t oversimplify the ‘goodies’ and the ‘baddies’ ... the truth is rarely as cut and dried as this.”

He is further reminded that “tone of voice and facial expression can significantly alter what an audience infers about a character”.
Marchant, whose new series, Garrow's Law, began on BBC One last night, is a multi-award winning writer with a string of credits. He was not impressed.
“The module is a complete nonsense and proof that the compliance culture is out of control at the BBC. I was baffled when I was asked to do it and still can’t see the point of it.”
Even more worrying is a comment elsewhere in the article from Hugh Bonneville who starred alongside Julie Walters in BBC2’s Filth: The Mary Whitehouse Story
“I now detect a creeping self-censorship in the television scripts I am given to read,” he said. “I remember in the light of the Queengate affair the producer of the Mary Whitehouse programme saying the compliance unit wanted him to go through the script pointing out which bits actually happened and which were dramatic invention.

“Whatever next? Do you put up a warning at the beginning of the programme telling the audience that Julie Walters is not Mary Whitehouse?”


  1. TVwriter9:53 am

    But there are two puzzling things about this story. Firstly, this module (which is truly banal - it's at:
    if you've got time on your hands) is intended for producers, not writers. And second, does Garrow's Law - set in the eighteenth century - really count as a 'factual drama' for the purposes of the Safeguarding Trust?

  2. I took the module. It would be pretty much impossible for anyone of average intelligence to fail it. That the BBC felt it necessary to get Tony Marchant to do it is jaw-dropping. That's our licence fee at work, then.

  3. Guy Hibbert10:17 am

    Lucky Tony - I'm a bit pissed off that I haven't got a certificate. Maybe the next step is that the Guild contact the BBC and organize a day when every Guild member can attend and we can all get our certificates together, Moonie-style.
    Guy Hibbert


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