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Ofcom must not ‘take sides in the culture war’ by banning blackface on TV, ex-BBC chief warns

Ofcom must not ‘take sides in the culture war’ by banning blackface on TV, ex-BBC chief warns, as watchdog probes family-run channel for showing 1970s sitcom Rogue’s Rock

  • Ofcom is investigating Talking Pictures TV for airing episode with blackface in 
  • Lord Grade of Yarmouth warned the OFCOM probe sets a ‘worrying precedent’
  • Writing to OFCOM, the former BBC chair warned it against taking similar actions to the National Trust, which he said is ‘under intense and formal scrutiny’
  • Rogue’s Rock was a British sitcom that was broadcast from 1974 to 1976 
  • OFCOM received a single complaint when it was re-run on boxing day

Broadcast regulator Ofcom has been warned it must not ‘take sides in the culture war’ by banning blackface on TV by a former BBC chief.

The TV watchdog is investigating a repeat showing of a 1970s programme featuring ‘blacked-up’ actors, which Lord Grade of Yarmouth says sets a ‘worrying precedent.’

Lord Garde wrote to Ofcom saying it must not be seen to be taking sides in the ‘culture war’ as it  investigates whether Talking Pictures TV breached standards by showing an episode of comedy series Rogue’s Rock on Boxing Day.

In a letter to Ofcom chief executive Dame Melanie Dawes, Lord Grade says he is ‘deeply troubled’ by the probe and warned that any punishment would ‘ultimately be politically correct censorship’.

The TV watchdog is investigating a repeat showing of a 1970s programme ‘Rogue’s Rock’ (pictured), after Talking Pictures TV aired a repeat episode with a character in blackface

The probe into the channel, which was founded by a father and daughter in Watford in 2015, is thought to have been launched after just one complaint.

In the letter seen by the Daily Telegraph Lord Grade, BBC chairman from 2004 to 2006, said: ‘It risks Ofcom being seen to take sides in the national debate, or culture war as some might describe it. Worse, it risks ridicule.’

‘There is a national debate raging about how we acknowledge our past, in statues, in historic buildings and museums etc. Some of this debate is healthy, some not.

Lord Garde (pictured) wrote to Ofcom saying it must not be seen to be taking sides in the ‘culture war’ as it investigates whether Talking Pictures TV breached standards by showing an episode of comedy series Rogue’s Rock on Boxing Day

Lord Garde (pictured) wrote to Ofcom saying it must not be seen to be taking sides in the ‘culture war’ as it investigates whether Talking Pictures TV breached standards by showing an episode of comedy series Rogue’s Rock on Boxing Day

‘What next? Will Ofcom want to see Olivier’s Richard III banned since he only pretended to be physically handicapped?’ 

He said deciding to investigate and potentially fine the channel ‘is a serious error of judgement and a very worrying precedent’. 

He added that the probe into the channel – which attracts 3.5 million viewers a week – seeks only to ‘patronise, infantilise and demean’ the intelligence of the audience.

Lord Garde warned Ofcom against taking similar actions to the National Trust, which he said is ‘under intense and formal scrutiny for its alleged “woke proselytising”’. 

A spokesman for Ofcom said: ‘Our investigation is in its early stages and we have not yet drawn any conclusions about whether the content has or has not breached broadcasting rules.’

Rogue’s Rock, the 70s show caught up in blackface row

Rogue’s Rock was a British television series that was broadcast from 1974 to 1976, featuring three series and totalling 27 episodes.

The show was a sitcom, categorised as ‘comedy adventure’, and took place on a supposed privately owned island called Rogue’s Rock.

The island, off the coast of England and owned for a long time by the Rogue Family, was the setting for a number of extravagant plot lines.

In its first season, the focus was on two German strangers stranded on the island who were trying to find sunken treasure – leading to everyone on the island being caught up in an international plot to claim the treasure.

The second series saw the island’s residents find mysterious underwater beacons off the coast of Rogue’s rock, and the islanders are forced to fight off a threat to the island’s independence.

One plot line saw Bolshoi Ballet and New York Metropolitan Opera both arrive on the island at the same time, each wanting to perform and being offered the quarry as a venue.

Another saw one of the characters have to go and represent the island at the United Nations, while another included an exiled African princess.

In reality, the show was filmed on the tiny island of Herm in the Channel Islands, with its action scenes relying heavily on stock footage. 

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