Government ministers are planning to introduce a legal requirement that broadcasters produce “clearly British” TV shows.
Speaking at the Royal Television Society conference on Wednesday (15 September), former media minister John Whittingdale – who has since been sacked during the cabinet reshuffle – said that he would be proposing that public service broadcasters expand their remit.
As part of this, there will be a requirement that they must produce “distinctively British” content, with Whittingdale citing Only Fools and Horses, Fleabag, Derry Girls and Doctor Who as examples.
He said that these programmes have been internationally successful while also reflecting Britain and British values, where shows on streaming platforms are more “generic”.
While the minister admitted that Britishness was “a difficult concept to measure”, he said that Ofcom would be asked to draw up a definition.
Whittingdale’s comments were widely criticised online, with academic Tanja Beultmann writing: “Real shivers down the spine moment reading this.”
“HMG plans laws requiring public broadcasters to produce ‘distinctively British’ programmes such as Fleabag, Derry Girls and Only Fools and Horses. THIS IS NOT A JOKE,” another wrote.
Many commenters also mocked the inclusion of Derry Girls on the list, a show that is set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.
“The principle of this is horrible, but the fact that he picked Derry Girls as an example is sending me,” one viewer commented.
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“Whoever is making those laws clearly has not seen Derry Girls bc if i had a quid for every time they insult the British,” one tweet read.
Another Twitter user wrote: “Derry Girls is a distinctly Irish show, the Brits trying to claim it as their own really show how clueless they are. It’s not called “Londonderry Girls” now is it??”
Whittingdale said that Derry Girls, which is made by Channel 4, “very clearly” passed the test because it is “set in Northern Ireland at a particularly challenging time”.