Another row has erupted over the BBC’s partial programming after the New Year’s Eve broadcast of the Graham Norton Show featured known Europhiles Nish Kumar and Frankie Boyle who delighted in telling lacklustre jokes at the expense of the likes of Nigel Farage.
Kumar shocked viewers when comparing Brexiteer Farage to a “sack of meat brought to life by a witch’s curse”. And if it was difficult for viewers to salvage the humour in his performance, the broadcast took a turn for the worse later on when Boyle said Britain’s long-awaited departure from the EU was “like finding out your cancer has spread to the walls of your house.”
“Sooner or later the British will re-enter Europe – admittedly as refugees,” Boyle later added.
Boyle’s compatriot, Des Clarke thought it appropriate to joke on his BBC Scotland radio show that listeners would be able to recreate next year’s planned Brexit Festival at home by “humming the national anthem while stamping on a croissant.”
Both Kumar and Boyle have tarnished their reputations in openly siding with political causes. Last year, Kumar used his Mash Report show as a platform to defend disgraced journalist, Carole Cadwalladr who had entangled herself in an online spat with Andrew Neill. During the skit, Kumar even joked, “I’m not sure if any of this is balanced.”
Later that year Kumar was booed off-stage at a Christmas fundraising event when making derogatory remarks about Brexit. After initially refusing to walk, the performer described members of the audience who did not share his views as “thick” before finally taking his marching orders. “This man, who is supposed to be a comedian, gets up and delivers what could only be described as a political speech,” said one person at the event.
In September, “comedian” Sophie Duker who is black and a regular guest on Boyle’s New World Order joked on the show about killing “whitey” provoking guffaws from the liberal-leaning panel, including Boyle himself.
Former UKIP member of the London assembly, Peter Whittle who now sits as an independent commented: “It’s no great surprise the BBC is losing public confidence. It can barely contain its hostility to Brexit and people have got wise to it.
“On all the big issues such as Brexit and immigration, it is completely at odds with the majority in the country. And yet they have to pay for it.”
Last year, the BBC’s new director-general, Tim Davie pledged to make improving impartiality his number one priority in a bid to head off Downing Street manoeuvres to assert more control over the failing broadcaster. The BBC is facing an existential challenge from streaming services like Netflix, which is attracting younger viewers in droves.
Meanwhile, older licence-fee payers feel increasingly alienated from the BBC’s content. A poll in October found that two-thirds of Brits want sweeping reform, 43% said they felt the Beeb no longer reflected British values.