We struggle to find right-wing comedians, admits BBC chief Jeremy Hardy Speaks to the Nation led to complaints from Radio 4 listenersShow criticised for 'Tory bashing' and 'prejudiced extreme left wing views'
Commissioning editor Caroline Raphael has now admitted it is a struggle to find comedians with a right-wing point of view

Paul Revoir


04:08 GMT, 12 March 2013



08:31 GMT, 12 March 2013

'Diatribe': Jeremy Hardy has come under criticism from Radio 4 listeners for his 'extreme left-wing views'

'Diatribe': Jeremy Hardy has come under criticism from Radio 4 listeners for his 'extreme left-wing views' on his show

The BBC has admitted it finds it ‘very difficult’ to find Conservative comedians to appear on radio programmes in order to provide political balance.

Radio 4’s comedy boss has claimed it is a ‘struggle’ to find performers regarded as having a right-wing point of view.

The admission was made by Commissioning editor Caroline Raphael, in response to criticism from listeners over Jeremy Hardy Speaks to the Nation, described as a new ‘Tory and coalition bashing comedy’.

The content led many to complain to Radio 4 audience opinion show Feedback with one stating: ‘This programme appears to be a diatribe of Jeremy Hardy’s prejudiced extreme left wing views. It wasn’t clever and it certainly wasn’t funny.’

He added: ‘The BBC is a non-political organisation and yet it is paying for broadcasting what appeared to be a party political broadcast for the Communist Party’.

Miss Raphael suggested that ‘possibly the right feels more comfortable with a pen and paper’ when she tried to explain the dearth of right-of-centre comedians on its shows.

She admitted the problem is not that they do not exist but that they are not coming through.

The BBC executive added that she was keen to find comics who can challenge the perceived left-wing domination of BBC comedy shows such as The News Quiz.

In Jeremy Hardy Speaks to the Nation, which airs in a prime evening slot, Mr Hardy repeatedly mocks Tory politicians describing David Cameron and George Osborne as a ‘horrible kind of posh’, saying they were ‘braying hoorays’.
Among a string of anti-Conservative and coalition remarks, he also joked about the Tory party killing foreigners.
One listener told Feedback: ‘I think anyone would be hard pushed to call the 30 minutes of incessant Tory and coalition bashing comedy. Just broadcasting such a left-wing biased show in a prime-time comedy slot is I am afraid fuel to all those who accuse the BBC of such bias.’

A member of the audience added: ‘Jeremy Hardy had me screaming at the radio I’m afraid to say. Next time for a bit of balance can we maybe have a right wing comedian if you can find one.’

Miss Raphael tried to defend the show saying the targets of satire would always be ‘those in power’, but admitted the BBC did have a problem finding comedians from a right-of-centre viewpoint.

BBC Radio 4 Commissioning editor Caroline Raphael has claimed it is a struggle to find right-wing comedians

BBC Radio 4 Commissioning editor Caroline Raphael has claimed it is a struggle to find right-wing comedians

She told Feedback: ‘It is very difficult to find comedians from the right. I am not saying they aren’t out there.

‘Producers…spend a lot of time in the comedy clubs looking for people with a range of views.’

She said the broadcaster was ‘very open to names’, adding: ‘But we are not seeing them come through, there isn’t a tradition in terms of stand-up, possibly the right feels more comfortable with a pen and paper and the left standing up on a soap box, or in a comedy club.’

She added she was sure there was a PHD thesis in the subject, adding ‘but I do admit it is something we struggle with.’

Presenter of Feedback Roger Bolton suggested programmes like The News Quiz, which has been accused of being anti-Conservative and also features Jeremy Hardy, could take ‘note’ of The Now Show which is satirical about everyone.

The News Quiz is regarded by many as being dominated by left-wing voices and has been accused of being biased against Tory politicians.

But Miss Raphael said The News Quiz was very different from the other programme, because it relied on people’s ‘personal views’ while The Now Show was ‘very scripted’.

The News Quiz has been trying to extend the range of its panellists including the number of women in recent times. The Radio 4 comedy chief said they were ‘trying people out’ and producers were working hard at extending the range of people.

Among the names from a right-of-centre viewpoint who have been on the show in recent months is newspaper columnist Daniel Finkelstein.

Speaking about the political balance on programmes, such as The News Quiz, she added producers often did not known exactly what people’s political views are as many comedian’s routines are ‘observational’ rather than about politics.

The BBC boss added that while the corporation has a ‘responsibility’ for balance it did not mean you could not broadcast something ‘because you cannot find the opposite’.