'Great comedy will always find an audience' says BBC's Gregor Sharp at RTS event

'Great comedy will always find an audience' says BBC's Gregor Sharp at RTS event

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 Nerys Evans, Simon Lupton, Boyd Hilton, Jessica Knappett, Gregor Sharp
Nerys Evans, Simon Lupton, Boyd Hilton, Jessica Knappett, Gregor Sharp

BBC Three's move online will be important for comedy commissioning said a panel of experts at RTS early evening event No Laughing Matter: How Does Comedy Fight Back?

Plans to put BBC Three online could rob a new generation of comedy writers and performers of the opportunity to find an audience, said Jessica Knappett, creator of E4 sitcom Drifters.

Knappett, who writes and stars in the series said: "I feel like BBC Three going online is a door closing, it's an opportunity that's been taken away from me. I feel personally it's exactly the sort of channel I would write for and I found it difficult enough to get an audience on E4."

Knappett told a full house at The Hospital Club that she thought the BBC's decision to push the channel online "isn't going to help attract an audience" for comedy.

The third season of Drifters, a sitcom about a trio of 20-somethings looking for good jobs and nice boyfriends, will air on E4 later this month.

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BBC comedy commissioner Gregor Sharp said he didn't share the same level of anxiety about the move to online.

"If we had the choice we'd probably prefer to have the channel exist as it does now but it's really about the quality of work. Great quality work will always find an audience," Sharp said.

He also pointed to the BBC's pledge to push more BBC Three programmes to BBC One and BBC Two schedules as a result of the online move.

"In strict overall numbers, although there has been a cut in the budget for the service, comedy has been very well protected within that," Sharp assured the RTS members in the audience.

Knappett said: "I can't help thinking we are robbing an audience and a new generation of talent of a creative outlet and it's very disappointing."

She also said it was important for diversity that channels like BBC Three stay open and joked that its broadcast closure will be "a sure-fire way for the BBC to become more racist, classist and sexist overnight."

Channel 4 deputy head of comedy Nerys Evans said it was sad the BBC had opted to push BBC Three online but it might provide rivals with an opportunity to attract fresh talent. "I'm sure we'll have more things pitched than we had before but it has got to be right for us," Evans said.

Photos by Paul Hampartsoumian:

UKTV senior commissioning editor Simon Lupton said he is in the enviable position of having a company CEO in Darren Childs who is passionate about creating original comedy content for its network of channels.

"Scripted is very much a huge part of it," Lupton said. "As long as we pick shows that work, we'll continue to commission in that format."

Lupton warned against aping what is being done "brilliantly elsewhere."

He said: "From a comedy fan point of view, if there's a hit somewhere else, its brilliant because it's another flag being planted in the ground for comedy."

He also conjured a laugh from the audience with his quip that UKTV also watches what hits and misses on the BBC, because "we'll be getting it in a few years time."

The panel was ably orchestrated by Heat magazine TV editor Boyd Hilton. 

No Laughing Matter: How Does Comedy Fight Back? was an RTS early evening event held at The Hospital Club, London, on Tuesday 14 October.

The producers were Kerry Parker and Vicky Fairclough. A full report of the event will be published in the November issue of Television magazine.

 

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BBC Three's move online will be important for comedy commissioning said a panel of experts at RTS early evening event No Laughing Matter: How Does Comedy Fight Back?