74 Percent of BBC Comedy Slots Given to ‘Woke’ Comedians: Audit

74 Percent of BBC Comedy Slots Given to ‘Woke’ Comedians: Audit
A BBC sign is displayed outside the BBC headquarters in Portland Place, London, on July 2, 2020. (Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images)
Mary Clark

The BBC has come under fire for strongly favouring left-wing or "woke" comedians in its allocation of comedy broadcasting slots.

According to an audit (pdf) by the Campaign for Common Sense (CSC) 74 percent of 364 BBC comedy slots were given to "woke" comedians and just four to conservative comedians over the past month.
"Put bluntly, it seems that unless you are explicitly left-leaning, anti-Brexit, or ‘woke,’ you won’t get booked for broadcasts,” the CSC said in a statement on Saturday.

Of the 364 November slots under scrutiny, the CSC findings showed 268 were filled by comedians “with publicly pronounced left-leaning, anti-Brexit, or ‘woke’ persuasions.”

Of the 141 comedians involved, 70 percent were left-leaning, while just 1.1 percent were “explicitly conservative, pro-Brexit or anti-‘woke,'” the audit showed.

The CSC was launched in May by the founder of Bedford Free School and former Conservative parliamentary candidate, Mark Lehain, to promote "grown-up discussion and debate.”

He said in the report that “there has long been a feeling that comedians of a left-liberal leaning seem to get disproportionate airtime," with the CSC adding in their statement that "the BBC is failing to give exposure to comedians with a range of views and values.”

The findings come just a day before the BBC published its plans to develop a BBC Comedy Association (BCA).

"One of the BBC Comedy Association's core purposes is to promote inclusion and representation on and off-screen," it said in a statement.
Also announcing plans for a “revamped reinvented, and supersized BBC New Comedy Awards," it said, “The ambition is to drive more inclusion than ever before, engaging more people in more places, of more ages, and from more backgrounds.”

'Unbalanced' Range of Views

Asked to comment on the CSC audit findings, a BBC spokesperson said in an emailed statement, “We don’t analyse our comedy by comparing numbers.”

“We judge it on it being funny, how popular it is, and whether it reflects a range of different voices and views," the spokesperson added.

Yet Lehain said, “Given the BBC’s unique position and resources, its stated diversity goals, and its role in the talent pipeline, it is worrying that the range of views held by the artists and acts it uses is so unbalanced.”

It “does not reflect in any way those of the intended audience—the UK population,” he added.

The BBC was criticised last month when over 25 Conservative MPs, led by ex-minister John Hayes, called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to decriminalise the BBC licence fee over its “repeated refusal to address its organisation’s undoubted liberal bias,” according to the Mail on Sunday.
It faced further pressure in November when watchdog Ofcom said in its annual report that the people who have long formed the BBC’s core audience are keeping faith with it less and less, and that “due impartiality in programmes continues to be the issue about which we receive most complaints in relation to the BBC.”