Clearly British

As you’ve picked yourself up from the spectacle of watching the human detritus being exchanged around the Cabinet ‘reshuffle’ here’s a glimpse of what a desperately failing culture looks like. The i newspaper reports that “Ministers plan legal requirement for broadcasters broadcasters to make ‘clearly British’ shows like Only Fools and Horses”. The paper reports that “The UK’s public service broadcasters will have a legal requirement to produce “distinctively British” programmes under plans drawn up by ministers. Fleabag, Derry Girls and Only Fools and Horses were cited as the kind of “distinctively British” programmes that would meet the obligation. Ofcom will be asked to draw up a workable definition of the concept.”

Wait what?!

Apart from the strong scent of cultural desperation about all of this, is added the complete inability to discern what “British culture” might mean or be. The idea that Lisa McGee’s multi-award winning back comedy Derry Girls would be quintessentially British is so laughable it reveals a completely myopic worldview. There’s a clue in the name. And if Fleabag – written and performed by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, based on her one-woman show – was a brilliantly caustic and brutally honest phenomenon, it may have been because it spoke to universal themes, not British ones. And if Only Fools and Horses was a classic comedy, it may have been because it came from distinctive London/English subcultures. This inability to recognise (and celebrate) English culture is as bad as the tendency to subsume all and everything beneath a “British” banner.

But if “compulsory Britishness” has long been a hallmark of UK broadcast culture (Hello Bakeoff, Great British Menu and hundred others) this is now a new level.

The references are sadly hilarious. The Carry on Films (like say Dad’s Army) come from an era when ‘Britishness’ was an uncontested issue. Post-war British identity was (largely) unchallenged. So if Jimmy Perry and David Croft’s Home Guard was 70s Britain remembering 40s Britain then grand. The Carry On films spring from a quintessentially English comedy strain dating back to seaside saucy postcards, why you would shoe-horn classic bits of English culture into a “British” identity is unfathomable. The brilliant Blackadder, as also cited, is also set in an era where Britishness is largely uncontested (at least from a Scottish perspective).

You could argue all day about what was “British tv” – the arguments for James Bond that keenly-celebrated smear of kitsch misogyny dissolved when it was used as blatant tool for anti-independence propaganda in Skyfall. There’s got to be a student somewhere doing their Phd on the role and influence of Scotland in Dr Who. But the whole exercise reeks of English exceptionalism dressed up as a Britishness that no longer exists. The very idea of “compulsory Britishness” owes more to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World than Nadine Dorries’s Global Britain. It’s a farcical proposition but it’s no less dangerous for being completely unworkable. This is a desperate government flailing around for some ammunition from the culture war that is being used to mask their tenuous grip on the crisis (insert which one from a range of options).

Synthetic Britishness, produced by government diktat is now a thing. The yawning inadequacy of Britain as a cultural entity, the complete failure of British identity is complete. Sid James would be giving a loud and dirty laugh at the thought.

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  1. Radio Jammor says:

    Totally agree.

    The next step of course, once in place (if it ever gets that far – as I agree that defining this is probably going to be impossible, unless they can get away with a purely dogmatic & propaganda driven definitions) is to make it mandatory (or effectively mandatory) viewing. So you can throw in your Big Brother and your Hunger Games comparisons as well.

  2. Mons Meg says:

    Surely, any content that’s produced on these islands is ‘British’, whatever its cultural provenance. What other ‘workable definition of the concept’ is required.

    Even a London-based tennis player, who was born in Canada of a ‘Chinese’ mother and a ‘Romanian’ father, qualifies as ‘British’ nowadays, which is great.

    Ethnic nationalism is in its death throes throughout Britain. It just remains to be put out of its misery wherever it raises its bloodied head.

    1. It is not ‘ethic’ to say that some cultural production have their origins in Welsh culture, English culture or Scottish cultures.

      1. Mons Meg says:

        It’s certainly not if by ‘English’, ‘Scottish’, or ‘Welsh’ you don’t mean a particular ethnic provenance.

    2. Pat Walsh says:

      Really? On these islands eh? It may have missed your attention that there’s a wee bit of one of these islands that has been a fully independent state that is definitely not British in any sense of the word for just under a 100 years now.
      As they say back in said state: Jesus wept!

      1. Mons Meg says:

        Are you saying that Ireland isn’t one of the British Isles, Pat?

        1. Peter says:

          But – they don’t call them British Islands in Ireland, so no it isn’t.

        2. Graeme Purves says:

          It isn’t. There are two major islands in the archipelago, Britain and Ireland.

          1. Mons Meg says:

            Is that right? And here’s me thinking that the terminology of ‘the British Isles’ referred to the islands of Great Britain, Ireland and the smaller islands which surround them.

          2. Pat Walsh says:

            You are just deflecting from your blooper. You implied that any content produced in these islands is “British”. No one, other than the most died in the wool, head in the sand British nationalist, would accept the idea that content produced in the Republic of Ireland is British.
            As for the term British Isles, that designation is a term that is not generally used in the Republic of Ireland and you’ll notice that even in the UK now many people just refer to “These Islands”.
            Might be useful Meg to pay a wee bit more attention to the existence of the UKs wee neighbour.

          3. Mons Meg says:

            As you will. Pat. Are there any other islands you’d like removed from the archipelago while we’re at it?

          4. Pat Walsh says:

            The more the edifice crumbles the more patronising British nationalists get.
            Happily we’re heading for a situation in the not to distant future when you’re beloved British state is just a memory. And that will be to the benefit of all the people of These Islands.

        3. Pat Walsh says:

          PS. The Republic of Ireland is not an island, it’s a state. And it removed itself from the British Empire, thank you very much.

          1. Graeme Purves says:

            The Irish certainly don’t regard Ireland as a ‘British Isle’, which rather confirms that the notion of a ‘British Isles’ encompassing the island of Ireland is a self-serving British imperialist construct and not to be taken seriously.

          2. Mons Meg says:

            Ah, you’re confusing the geography with the politics. I’ve got it now. Yes, the Republic of Ireland isn’t part of the UK. But its territory is located on the archipelago that geographers designate ‘the British Isles’.

            Think of it this way: if Lewis or St Kilda became independent, they’d still be part of the British Isles. The UK didn’t cease to be a European country just because it left the EU. The Portuguese don’t get all precious when they hear themselves described as ‘Iberian’.

          3. Mons Meg says:

            Graeme, the classification (‘nēsoi brettaniai’) goes back at least as far as the Ancient Greeks, who explored the region around 325 BCE. The claim that ‘the British Isles’ has its provenance in the British Empire is an anachronism.

          4. Pat Walsh says:

            No Meg, as a professional geographer, I can assure you that that designation is not universally accepted and would certainly not be used by Irish geographers.

            Anyway, you were referring to cultural content not geographical designations in your original post. By accident or design, you deemed that all cultural content from these islands should be called British – obviously you’re free to think what you like but the vast majority of the citizens of the RoI would disagree.

          5. Mons Meg says:

            Indeed, the designation is conventional, Pat; so, I’d be surprised if it were universally accepted. You say ‘tomayto’, I say ‘tomahto’.

            And, yes: my original point was that any content produced in the so-called British Isles, whatever its cultural provenance (i.e. whatever the community that produced it – black, white, Asian, Irish, gay, straight, trans, cis), should be considered ’British’. But you disagree. You seem to reckon with the dominant community on these islands (whatever you want to call them) that designation should be reserved exclusively for its cultural products.

            I stand by my original point: that any workable definition of ‘British’ that Ofcom comes up with should be inclusive of all cultures and communities within these islands. If you want to exclude the Irish community from this, then join the Little Englanders.

          6. Pat Walsh says:

            It’s not about what I want or you want, it’s just a fact that hardly anyone in the RoI, and indeed many people in NI, would use or accept the use of British to describe themselves, their culture or anything about their community or identity. Your view that Irish people (with the exception of the unionist community in NI) use or would be happy with use of the designation of British, shows a profound ignorance of Irish society. Fair enough if you think that would be a good thing, but that’s different from confusing what you desire with reality.

            You seem to think that the word British equals multicultural. Again it seems to have missed your notice that, due to rapid social and economic change, the RoI is also a multicultural society, and one that is in some ways more open and progressive than the UK. It also seems to have missed your notice that those who trumpet their Britishness most loudly, in Scotland and NI, are the racist, bigoted, blood n soil British nationalists of the loyalist fringe. Of course nationalism of any variety, because of its catch-all, amorphous nature, can vere from the the ultra-reactionary to the inclusive and democratic and anything in between. At this point in time British nationalism is the repository of the most exclusionary, reactionary not to mention racist trends, as so clearly demonstrated by the current Orban tribute band of a government we’re blessed with.

          7. Mons Meg says:

            So, regardless of whether you want this name to extend to the second-largest island in the archipelago or would rather it didn’t, do you think Ofcom should exclude some cultures that are domiciled in the British Isles from its definition of ‘British’?

            To the contrary, I think British programming should be drawn from productions from within any and all of the cultures that are domiciled on the islands that make up the British Isles, whether these include Ireland or not; that, as I say: “any workable definition of ‘British’ that Ofcom comes up with should be inclusive of all cultures and communities within these islands”, whether ‘these islands’ includes Ireland or not. You don’t agree?

          8. Pat Walsh says:

            Under what Orwellesque rules must cultural content be classified under some nationalist label to be promoted by the state?

            It’s a sign on of desperation really – please please let us claim Irish dancing as British, else all we have is the reality of thousands of deluded sectarians marching through Glasgow today parading their reactionary Britishness etc.

            So back to the start as it were: these are just the “morbid symptoms” of a dying entity, which one hopes is replaced by a new configuration of states based on the equality of all the peoples of these islands.

          9. Mons Meg says:

            Under what Orwellesque rules must cultural content be classified under some nationalist label to be promoted by the state?

            I don’t know why we classify film and TV content as ‘Irish’. Tell me!

          10. Pat Walsh says:

            Well, as far as I know there’s no government directive about “Irish” content on TV in the RoI. But here’s a rough guide: stuff that’s produced in the RoI is usually called Irish and just because of the state’s they are produced in.
            Look, you got it wrong in the first instance, probably inadvertently, by forgetting that these islands include another state and by being unaware of the fact that hardly anybody on the RoI would refer to anything about themselves or their society as “British”.

          11. Mons Meg says:

            ‘But here’s a rough guide: stuff that’s produced in the RoI is usually called Irish and just because of the state’s they are produced in.’

            Which is almost exactly how I’m suggesting Ofcom should be guided in carrying out the task it’s been charged with: ‘British’ programmes = programmes that are produced in the British Isles, without discrimination based on the ‘ethnicity’ of the programme maker or the culture it draws on. It certainly shouldn’t be guided by any nativist criteria.

    3. Adrian Martyn says:

      “Surely, any content that’s produced on these islands is ‘British'”.

      This and similar ones are statements of opinion without evidence. To be taken seriously it MUST demonstrated. In all the years spent commenting on this issue, I have yet to hear such a case been made which does not ignore or dismiss evidences against it. That is not demonstrating a case, its refusing to deal with the issue.

      Here, again, is my case against.
      Your claims are:

      “the Republic of Ireland … is located on the archipelago that geographers designate ‘the British Isles’. … the classification goes back at least as far as the Ancient Greeks, who explored the region around 325 BC. The claim that ‘the British Isles’ has its provenance in the British Empire is an anachronism. …”

      The Republic is located on the island of Ireland. The Republic of Ireland is its description; the name of the state is Éire as Gaeilge and Ireland in English. Thus both Éire and Ireland are name of the state AND the island, the former of course drawn from the latter.

      Ptolemy of Massalia visited the islands around 325 BC, stating the name of the two largest ones was “Ierne and Albion”, saying they bore the collective name of “nesos Prettanike”. Why is utterly unknown as neither island was called Prettanike. Leaving that mystery aside, this was NOT their oldest collective term. The Massaloite Periplus of c. 600 BC called them “nesos Iernon kai Albionon” – the islands of the Iernians and the Albiones. Regardless, “nesos Prettanike” or “nesos Brittanike” was next recorded c.350-200 BC; in AD 77-79 as “the Britanniae”. In 147 Ptolomey called them “nesoi Brettanikai”, specifying they were “megale” “and mirka” – the big island and the small island. This was not because that was their names but because he didn’t know their names, which he corrected in 150, naming the major islands as “Alwion, Iwernia, Mona”. Why Albion became Britain has never been explained, but it was (generally) applied to Roman Albion. That again suggests an external term, first used by the Greeks but then imposed by the Romans on both the territory they successfully occupied and aspired to control between 43 and 410. Perhaps they simply took the term from Ceasar, but it still does not explain why he used it instead of Albion – unless of course he was simply taking it from the Greeks. But again, that STILL does not explain the origin of the word at a time in the 7th century BC when neither major island was called Britain.

      That was the last time “nesoi Brettanikai” or ‘the British Isles’ was used for another fifteen hundred or so years. Nor was it the only term used during c. 325BC-AD 150. Pomponius writing in AD 43 called them “Oceani insulae’ – the islands of the Ocean, or the Ocean islands, Ocean = Atlantic. It was this term plus its variations which continued to be used long after ‘the British Isles’ fell out of use. Its possible it was a native term, perhaps going back to the 7th century BC.

      Next references to “Oceani insulae” were in 417 by Orosius, c. 470s by Patricius, 531 by Jordanes, c. 547 by Gildas, 636 by Isidore, 697 by Adomnán, 731 by Bede. You’d imagine that as Britons, Orosius, Patricius and Gildas would use ‘the British Isles’, or even Bede as an Angle, but no. Not even the inhabitants of Britain had a concept of ‘the British Isles’, strongly suggesting it indeed fell out of use long before the Romans left, or was never a local term in the first place. Notably, it is entirely absent from the (extensive) surviving texts of the Irish – who had their own linguistic terms for the islands – but also the peoples of Britain.

      The rediscovery of classical texts in the 14th and 15th centuries led to its very slow reintroduction. A variant based on Ptolomy’s mistaken application Megla, “Great Britain”, was used by islanders in 1474 when a royal marriage was proposed between the Scottish and English dynasties. That demonstrates its use was entirely political and that was how it was developed, mainly by the English, over the next two hundred plus years. Thus George Lilly in 1548 used “Brittanicae Isulae”, Edmund Spenser and John Dee later that century, as did Peter Heylin in 1621. But as Hiram Morgan pointed out in 2001 these and other men “used ‘Britain’ merely as an imperial euphemism for ‘England’.” They were imperial propagandists for a LOCAL English empire of the islands. Henry VIII and his civil servants were entirely explicit about this in 1533: “Where by divers sundry old authentic histories and chronicles it is manifestly declared and expressed that this realm of England is an empire …”, an empire of England and Wales (actual), plus Ireland and Scotland (aspirational). James VI and I merely turned this around by becoming the first Scottish King of England and Wales, and Ireland, from which he wanted to make the three kingdoms into one – the Kingdom of Great Britain. But it didn’t happen because the English were not all-powerful in their local empire, and Westminster vetoed it (the other two parliaments were not consulted).

      Not until 1707 did Britain become a single state – the United Kingdom of Great Britain. Only from then on did ‘the British Isles’ became an increasingly common term, a political nickname for the local empire. Ireland of course was not part of UK Mark One as it was a separate kingdom, though one ruled by an unrepresentative colonial minority loyal to GB and who despised the majority population. It took the 1798 Rebellion for the colonial Irish parliament to be dispensed with the creation of UK Mark Two on 1 May 1801, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Now the political nickname really applied, and of course was ‘justified’ as ‘purely geographic’ by pointing out that (for a few centuries) in antiquity it was so-called (by Greeks and Romans).

      So, to quote myself: “Thus the phrase is neither a neutral geographic term or in use since antiquity, nor even the oldest. It is an imperial term denoting political domination expressed geographically. On those grounds it became obsolete upon the first meeting of a successful opposing polity, Dáil Éireann, at Dublin on 21 January 1919. So on the grounds of historical actuality, its uses before 1 May 1707 and from 21 January 1919 are here dismissed. ‘The British Isles’ and ‘Celts’ are power-terms for an Anglo-biased version of history as ‘correct’, non-English ones as ‘incorrect’. It almost works.” (Martyn, 2019, p. 170).

      All this is a long but necessary post to show “British” is a very modern political term whose uses remain profoundly misunderstood by those who use it most: Brexit instead of UKexit; ‘the British Isles’ instead of the Atlantic islands (Oceani insulae); Britain instead of England and England instead of Britain; that the Irish are also ‘British’ because they are within ‘the British Isles’, etc, etc. Actually, why DON’T people in the UK understand any of this??? Its a rather crucial part of your history! My conclusion is that while the global British Empire is gone, the local English Empire remains – UK Mark Three, which continues to culturally and institutionally perpetuate the obsolete British imperial outlook. I say obsolete because it has been plain for a long time to us, your neighbours, that all matters British are on life support and while not inevitable, the prognosis increasingly bleak. Personally, whatever hope for reform of the system with a transformed but continuing UK now seems impossible. Instead, it slouches towards Bethlehem …

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Adrian Martyn, that, and the fact that digital media is made across borders with international human resources these days anyway. You cannot get a clearer example from the makers of the Scottish-themed, -voiced and -music (including Julie Fowlis) Bard’s Tale IV, who are called inXile and I believe are headquartered in California.
        Is it British? Does anyone care about such classification?

        1. Mons Meg says:

          Indeed, SD; how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

          1. SleepingDog says:

            @Mons Meg ?!? When you finish a piece of digital cultural work, like a game or a movie, you generally see a list of credits, which in the big (‘AAA’ or blockbuster like) games lets you see a list of how many and who contributed to the game, and in what role, and often in what country or city (assuming these are accurate). If a movie is an animation, often lots of the work is farmed out to countries which have large specialist studios, which often are trained in a traditional style (which is why some Batman movies look reminiscent of kinds of Japanese anime). Special effects and post-processing are also often farmed out in live-action movies. And that’s without the other kinds of international input, like software tools and cultural resources imported, appropriated or honoured. Much of our culture is global.

            Marina Warner writes of how fairy tale content has been leaking across borders for many centuries that we can track. One of the most skilled animators working in Britain was Lotte Reiniger, who fled from Nazi Germany, and appropriated content from around the world for her folk tale adaptations.
            Does it make any real sense to slap a ‘British culture’ label on her work here?

          2. Mons Meg says:

            I’ve no idea, SD. What is the rationale behind classifying movies and TV programmes as ‘British’, ‘Spanish’, ‘Irish’, ‘Japanese’, ‘Australian’, ‘Canadian’, or whatever? Why is Bhaji on the Beach a ‘British’ rather than an ‘Indian’ film?

      2. Mons Meg says:

        ‘All this is a long but necessary post to show “British” is a very modern political term…’

        It is indeed. But I was using it rather as a geographical expression, which (as you’ve just evidenced in your ‘long but necessary post’) has a lengthy provenance.

        1. Graeme Purves says:

          I’m not confusing anything, Meg. The notion of an archipelago called the British Isles encompassing Ireland was devised for political reasons. It is far from being a neutral geographical label. Given the strong role Gaelic culture played in civilising Britain in the early Medieval period, perhaps we should really be referring to the archipelago as the ‘Hibernian Isles’? However, I reckon just talking about Britain and Ireland is easier.

          1. Mons Meg says:

            And what political reasons did Ptolemy of Massalia have when he devised the notion?

        2. Adrian Martyn says:

          But that’s my point, Meg. The ‘geographical’ term derives from modern politics, not the other way around. Please re-read what I posted.

          “my original point was that any content produced in the so-called British isles, whatever its cultural provenance … should be considered ‘British’. But you disagree. You seem to reckon with the dominant community on these islands …. that the designation should be reserved exclusively for its cultural products.”

          Here you are confusing (your) geographic term for the political state called the UK (Mark Three). Whatever the UK produces can be described as British or according to its sub-divisions. That is a matter for yourselves. But NOT outside the UK even locally as the UK does not include Ireland. Even within NIUK it has fraught applications. So yes indeed, “that designation should be reserved exclusively for its cultural products” – the products of the UK.

          “I stand by my original point: that: any workable definition of ‘British’ that Ofcom comes up with should be inclusive of all cultures and communities within these islands. If you want to exclude the Irish community from this, then join the Little Englanders.”

          Again, a serious misunderstanding. Ofcom is “the government approve regulatory and competition authority for the broadcasting, telecommunications and postal industries OF THE UNITED KINGDOM.” (my emphasis). By its very nature Ofcom has no applications outside the UK whatsoever as Ireland is an independent state from the United Kingdom. Why would the Irish define themselves by British terms? This isn’t a case of “Little Englanders” (???), it is a fact that the Irish do not define themselves or their culture as British. Believe it or not, this was a fairly crucial point over the last number of centuries, especially c.1909-26.

          As pointed out by myself and other posters, the Irish correctly reject ‘the British Isles’ even as a ‘geographic’ term as it is a political hold-over from the English and British Empires. Which they left quite a while ago! Ofcom’s definitions pertain only to the United Kingdom, not Ireland, so claiming Ofcom definitions apply to ‘the British Isles’ is flat out wrong and a ‘geographical’ slight-of-hand.

          Please, re-read my original post. If you have issues with its content, fine, but start from there. That way we can both at least understand where we disagree and why.

          Its nothing new to hear matters Irish (usually actors, writers, musicians or footballers) be claimed as ‘British’. Rather than malice, as you outlined it comes from a genuine and very widespread mis-understanding of the applications of the word. Yet it is deeply perturbing that even on this point there is such a casual but profound lack of knowledge concerning the UK’s closest neighbour. No wonder matters since 2016 have been so fraught when even good people such as yourself have factually wrong cultural assumptions; on even basic matters, there are unchallenged social beliefs which have caused profound misunderstandings. I can’t see how this will end well unless they are acknowledged.

          1. SleepingDog says:

            @Adrian Martyn, although the British Empire still exists, geographically and politically and presumably culturally. What of all those imperial subjects outside of the geography (or on the periphery) of the UK part of the British isles? It seems only yesterday that the kinds of people who are pushing Brexiteer-Britishness were furiously claiming that people as far away as Falklands/Malvinas islands were British. Probably less enthusiastic about the inbreeders of Pitcairn, and anywhere where skin colour and Spanish-speaking suggests unBritishness to them, or are basically military bases or tax-haven hubs of the British financial empire.

            Indeed the UN is trying to wrench one of these colonies off the British empire now.

            Do some of the inhabitants of these colonies see themselves as ‘more British than the British’ perhaps? That certainly has been the theme of various cultural explorations. Perhaps the sola topee will come back into fashion in the UK. Oh dear, on further examination, it seems to have derived from foreign climes:
            which immediately calls into question Carry on Up the Khyber as a dangerously inauthentic portrayal of Britishness.

          2. Mons Meg says:

            “The ‘geographical’ term derives from modern politics, not the other way around.”

            But the geographical term doesn’t derive from modern politics. As your previous post evidences, its historical provenance goes back much, much further than the UK. Nor does the political term derive from geography. The latter’s a legal term that politicians came up with to denote a constitutional settlement that created a new state; namely, the UK.

            “…the UK does not include Ireland.”

            No, the UK does not indeed include the ROI. But, Ireland has historically counted as one of the British Isles.

            “Why would the Irish define themselves by British terms?”

            I’ve no idea. The Irish can define themselves as they like; ‘not British’ or whatever. But the question is not why the Irish would define themselves by British terms but what is to count as a ‘British’ TV programme. My answer is simple: any programme that’s produced in the British Isles, whatever the cultural provenance of that programme.

        3. Peter says:

          No, in all reality you’re trying to push the term ‘British’ on people who don’t feel British in any way (culturally, ethnically, politically) and you want a GB/UK institution Ofcom to decide what’s ‘Irish’ or not, so that this Ofcom ‘Irish’ could be shelved under some mega-British hat. To simplify this – if you came to Limerick and asked 100 people on the street if they were/felt British (just British or British alongside their Irish identity) or not, what do you think their answers would be?

          1. Mons Meg says:

            “No, in all reality you’re trying to push the term ‘British’ on people who don’t feel British in any way (culturally, ethnically, politically) and you want a GB/UK institution Ofcom to decide what’s ‘Irish’ or not, so that this Ofcom ‘Irish’ could be shelved under some mega-British hat.”

            But who’s insisting that the Irish call themselves ‘British’? I’ve just gone through all my posts on this thread, and I can’t see any evidence of me having insisted on any of this. As Adrian would say, ‘This and similar ones are statements of opinion without evidence.’ And he’d go on to say quite rightly that, ‘To be taken seriously it MUST [be] demonstrated’. Can you point to where I actually say this in any of my posts?

            What I have been saying is that, in determining what’s to counts as a ‘British’ TV programme, Ofcom should include any programme that’s produced by anyone who’s domiciled in the British Isles, irrespective of the cultural provenance of that programme or the cultural heritage of the programme-maker. This is to ensure that none of the cultural diversity that’s to be found on these islands is excluded from the public broadcasting canon.

            But if you’d prefer the work of Irish programme-makers who live and work here to be excluded from this canon, you’d better take it up with Ofcom.

          2. Peter says:

            As you cancelled reply – I’m writing under my post. I’m honestly speechless. The fact that you don’t see a problem with an institution that belongs to the UK/British state (and has whatsoever nothing to do with the Republic of Ireland) judging whether an Irish programme is ‘Irish’ enough to be called ‘British'(?!) or not (even if put aside how bizarre this idea is even for programmes made in GB/UK) is the best explanation to me why everyone’s trying to run away from England as far as possible. Ofcom is not an institution of the ‘British Isles’ (which are definitely not called ‘British Isles’ in Ireland), but an institution that belongs to a political entity called UK. Republic of Ireland has nothing whatsoever to do with the GB part of the UK (it has with NI as stated in the Belfast agreement and through EU as stated in the Brexit agreement). British (as belonging to UK, not the ‘British Isles’) parliament and government have control over this institution. And you’d like this institution that has absolutely nothing to do with the voters in the Republic of Ireland or any of its institutions to judge Irish programmes. It’s just more than ridiculous. Have you ever thought that maybe Irish citizens/residents don’t want Irish programmes judged at all? It’s an idea that’s on the same level that a German institution should start judging English programmes whether they are Germanic or Anglo-Saxon enough (although historically this would even make much more sense).

          3. Mons Meg says:

            I didn’t know that Ofcom had been tasked with ‘judging whether an Irish programme is ‘Irish’ enough to be called ‘British'(?!) or not’. I thought it had been tasked with drawing up a workable definition of a British TV programme. Accordingly, I suggested ‘any content that’s produced on these islands… whatever its cultural provenance’ so as not to exclude programmes made by producers from any of the myriad cultural communities that exist here.

            But, apparently, you object to my suggestion on the grounds that it doesn’t exclude the Irish.

    4. Alec Lomax. says:

      Male cattle manure.

  3. Blair Breton says:

    British derives from the British Isies. It came about during the Act of Union as a definition that covered all the British Isles England and Scotland. So Tories are thinking British is English. Wrong.

    1. David McGrath says:

      It would be more accurate to refer to the archipelago as the Britannic Isles.

      British/GB in the English construct arising from their invasion and military occupation of Wales and Ireland and the political annexation of Scotland via corruption, extortion, and bribery.

      When the English refer to British they really mean deep down English full square

  4. Robbie says:

    Top of the pops and Jim,l fix it by James wilson Vincent saville hows that for Britishness

    1. Alec Lomax says:

      Now then, now then !

  5. Tom Ultuous says:

    We should put it about this means we won’t get to see programmes like Breaking Bad if we stay in the “UK”?

    1. Mons Meg says:

      I think the idea is rather that the content that British broadcasters make or commission should be ‘British’. Other broadcasters – like Netflix or Amazon, for example – will still be free to make or commission content globally.

      Of course, in an independent Scotland, there will be no similar call for Scottish broadcasters to make or commission distinctively ‘Scottish’ content – thank God!

  6. Coinneach says:

    Dystopia beckons: shades of Nazi Germany banning “degenerate” art works. However it might have its upside: they might ban Neil Oliver from TV for being “too Scottish”!

  7. Derek says:

    France requires a certain percentage of output from TV and radio stations to be in French.

    This is to prevent music radio and film channels from broadcasting foreign-language – largely English – output.

    1. Derek says:

      Sorry, that should be, “…from broadcasting excessive foreign-language…”.

  8. Mark Bevis says:

    The arrogant assumption of course is that everyone has a TV and watches such drivel. The last “Englishness” I watched was Blake’s 7 and the Cadbury’s Flake gypsy girl advert…..
    I’m one of the 5% that doesn’t have a TV, (It was 7.5% some time before Covid, but it seems TV ownership went up during lockdowns) and never have had one, although I’ve lived in households that did have TVs. Feel free to join me by binning your set, it’a quite liberating and saves you ~£150 a year or whatever the TV tax is these days.

    1. SleepingDog says:

      @Mark Bevis, wasn’t Blake Welsh? Seems to be running on Forces TV.

      I don’t know why people are proud of not having a television. These days, it’s not like you’re even slaved to broadcast timetables, the on-demand revolution is here. And there’s a world of content, not all bad.

      1. Dougie Harrison says:

        I’m not in any way ‘proud’ that I don’t have a telly pal. I choose not to have one because I don’t want to watch it. Same as I choose not to have a mobile; my landline is fine.

        1. Mons Meg says:

          I’m ashamed to say I don’t keep one either. I do listen to the wireless, though. The problem I have with telly is that you need to sit down and watch it; with the wireless, you can get on with other stuff while you’re listening to it.

          I do keep a pay-as-you-go mobile phone, though. But I’m also ashamed to say that I switch it on only when I need to make a phone call, which emergencies occur only rarely.

  9. Michael says:

    Britishness as embodied by our current Conservative Party includes empty promises, lies, unfaithfulness, financial corruption, xenophobia and cold-blooded cruelty to the most disadvantaged in society. Should make great television.

    1. Jim says:

      Sounds like the underlying concept of Game of Thrones!

  10. SleepingDog says:

    I grew up reading British disaster science fiction, which would be excellently topical for television adaptation, a country falling apart and menaced by more advanced powers. And surely it is time for a mini-series featuring Michael Moorcock’s Dark Empire of Granbretan?
    Although how do we know that past British productions weren’t secretly being directed by shadowy foreign investors, like the CIA apparently did for the animated Animal Farm? Culture wars aren’t new. Although colonial wars remain largely untapped for historical drama with a modern bite. And an extended dramadocumentary charting corrupt British Parliamentary politics through the ages may end up displacing those Royalist dramas and ‘secrets’ docs for viewers gripped by fascinated revulsion. Grim reality shows set in mines, factories and turnip fields. Creature Comforts animated short series featuring the voices of child labourers in the character of enslaved work animals. Talking of slavery, perhaps some kind of British Roots (not another turnip reference)? Or nature-depletion series showing how British Royals led the extermination of local species starting with the Tudor War on Nature. Bill and Ben the Opium Men. From the Cutting Room Floor: choice sections of British culture you never saw, because of political censorship (and not offal from Queen Elizabeth’s private palace torture chamber). Thinking of that, an adult version of Horrible Histories with all the depravity kept in. I really think this idea sounds promising.

  11. Graeme Purves says:

    The Carry on films, like the radio and television versions of ‘The Goon Show’, also drew heavily on the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA) tradition of entertainment for ‘our lads’ in the British Forces (see ‘Carry on Sargeant’ (1958)). Like so much in failing Britain, this goes back to nostalgia for the Second World War.

  12. David B says:

    More obnoxious two-faced nonsense from the Tories. They hold up some (genuinely brilliant) BBC & C4 programming as being exemplary, while trying to destroy the creative ecosystem that made these possible. The BBC face funding cuts and a hostile Culture Minister, C4 is being privatised, and they’re still trying to find a panel that will interview and appoint Dacre as head of Ofcom despite him being rejected once already.

    If they continue on this trajectory, Scottish independence is inevitable because the Tories will have destroyed anything that makes the UK worth retaining (socially, emotionally and culturally).

  13. Cairnallochy says:

    Surely to reflect Britishness, it has to be renamed “Londonderry Girls” since “Derry” is unacceptable to many NI unionists ?

    Shows how out of touch UK government is.

    (I am neutral on this naming issue, since it doesn”t matter to me.)

    1. Graeme Purves says:

      “Dash-City Girls” might just be acceptable to the British Board of Censors.

  14. James Morton says:

    Well what a surprise. When Tony Blair tried this, the best New Labour could manage was the Chicken Tikka Masala speech.

  15. Tom Ultuoud says:

    The non-decimals within the “UK” govt are also intending to reintroduce British imperial measure. Maybe they’re hoping it will create a smokescreen for price rises.

  16. Tim Hoy says:

    “dressed up as Britishness that no longer exists” or dressed up as Britishness that never existed?

  17. Niemand says:

    The sadness about reading this article and thread is what it mostly says is that all notions of ‘-ishness’ – British, English, Scottish, Irish etc are a dead end. I can see little difference in the tenor of many of the arguments in the comments to those justifiably condemned in the article.

    1. Mons Meg says:

      That’s identity thinking and politics for you. That they terminate in the culs de sac of absurdity is hardly a ‘sadness’. These kinds of discussions fill me with joy.

      1. Niemand says:

        They may be metaphorical dead ends but they are spreading. The distinction between civic and ethnic nationalism is getting more and more blurred and the open ethnic sort rising, as evidenced by the change in tone and content of numerous well known and visited blogs. I cannot find any joy in that. Bella has always stoop up for the civic approach but I sense slippage, even equivocation.

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