OUTSPOKEN comic Frankie Boyle has accused Britain’s television bosses of deliberately sidelining controversial or challenging programming.
The Scottish stand-up compared modern-day television guides to the entertainment schedules of cruise ships because they were so risk averse.
Boyle, who has found himself embroiled in a spate of controversies over his television appearances, said he would “cull” senior management at the BBC who are “stopping good people from doing their job”.
He said Jeremy Clarkson would be sacked if it was up to him, describing the presenter as a “cultural tumour” at the BBC.
Speaking at the Edinburgh International Television Festival yesterday, Boyle accused Channel 4 of abandoning “anything with any interest or edge to it,” saying he had given up any hope of featuring on the station.
Boyle said panel shows featuring stand-up comics were deliberately shying away from tackling issues such as armed conflicts around the world and were still reluctant to hire female guests, saying he was strongly in favour of a 50-50 quota system.
Boyle, a vocal advocate of Scottish independence, also predicted it was likely to fail because of the “huge level of media bias”, singling out the BBC for criticism, saying the corporation had vested interests because of the licence fees that came from Scotland.
Boyle, who made his name on the Scottish stand-up scene, became a household name thanks to appearances on shows such as Mock The Week and Have I Got News For You?
Boyle said he did not regret some of his controversial jokes, including those about the Olympic swimmer Rebecca Adlington and the disabled son of model Katie Price, describing his stronger material as “calculated risks”. He said he was upset when his material was compared to internet trolling, insisting it was “very deliberate and carefully chosen”.
Boyle said: “Think of all the other things that we could get offended about rather than a joke that was told five years ago. Comedy is something that people feel really happy about whipping. Get over it and talk about something real.”
Boyle said the quality of comedy programmes had declined because of commissioners “whose main motivation is to avoid controversy” and a requirement to have programmes approved by senior management who were the equivalent of “a mad aunt.”
He said: “There’s a layer of people whose job it is to kind of reject things that are interesting. And the trouble is, that layer is at the top. If you have someone who’s called a comedy commissioner, they should be allowed to commission comedy.
“They [British television channels] don’t take any risks and they are taking less risks and they don’t want to take risks. One of the priorities is not to take risks. They would rather not take risks than have falling ratings and they would rather not take risks than lose money.
“At the moment, my TV guide looks like the entertainment guide on a cruise ship. If they took some more risks, they might hang on to some of their audience.”
Boyle said C4’s programming could be compared to the pages of glossy magazines such as Chat or Take A Break. He said: “They have a duty they have completely abandoned. They have tried to appeal to the absolute worst. It’s the opposite of what their remit is. Their programmes are unacceptable in any context. I don’t think I would ever get anything on there because they don’t want to do that kind of thing.”
Boyle, who claimed the BBC was far too close to the Westminster government, added: “I would cull a lot of their senior management and their pensions. I would get rid of a lot of hopeless people in there who are stopping good people from doing their job.”
Asked about the independence referendum, Boyle said: “I’m all for it. It won’t happen. One of the reasons it won’t happen is the media is just completely against it. There’s a huge level of media bias. One of the reasons the BBC is biased against it that never gets mentioned is the BBC raises a licence fee of £300-odd million in Scotland – they won’t release the actual figures but it’s probably £320m – and they spend, they say, £160m, £60m of which is very probably finessed. So it’s probably a £200m a year subsidy to the BBC.”
Asked about the aftermath of a No vote, he added: “I think half the country will have had their dreams and hopes destroyed, so it will be pretty much business as usual for everybody.”