Page last updated at 10:39 GMT, Thursday, 5 November 2009

Scandals 'may lead to bland TV'

Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand
The BBC reviewed its compliance policy after the Radio 2 prank calls row

Fear of causing offence has left TV in danger of becoming too bland, Channel 4's programme chief has said.

Julian Bellamy told the Royal Television Society that recent scandals were preventing broadcasters from taking creative risks.

He said the BBC appeared to avoid controversial ideas "like the plague" in the wake of last year's Radio 2 prank calls row.

The BBC said "creative risk-taking" was "alive and well" at the corporation.

But Mr Bellamy said the BBC seemed "to be increasingly conservative in its editorial decision-making".

"After a string of scandals about taste and decency, it seems to avoid disruptive, potentially controversial ideas like the plague," he said.

"Time and again, producers tell me this and I believe it."

He said this was an "unintended consequence of the BBC's method of funding".

'Compliance spiral'

The BBC has strengthened its compliance systems since the row over obscene phone messages left for Fawlty Towers actor Andrew Sachs by Radio 2 presenters Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand in October 2008.

Mr Bellamy said the industry's "compliance spiral" threatened to "bland out the medium to no-one's benefit".

But he said Channel 4 would continue to take creative risks "even when public sentiment risks being offended".

He described it as the "sole guardian of nonconformism and provocation on Britain's most powerful cultural medium".

"I genuinely believe if Channel 4 retreats into conservatism we will cease to be a meaningful cultural force," he added.

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