ITV-BBC Netflix Rival Bans Politically Incorrect Classic TV Shows

30th November 1966: Alf Garnett, played by Warren Mitchell, and his son-in-law Mike, playe
Keystone/Getty Images

Britbox, which claims to bring the “best of British” television on-demand, has banned programmes like Till Death Do Us Part and It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum because they may be offensive to today’s audiences.

The online service is a collaboration between British terrestrial networks the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and Channel 5, and was launched on Thursday, costing the same as its Netflix rival at £5.99 a month.

“We’ve carefully selected a wide range of the very best in British programming which will appeal to viewers in 2019,” an ITV spokesman said.

Citing “changing tastes”, an executive from partner network ITV, Reemah Sakaan, said that certain programmes would not be available because they have been deemed racist or otherwise offensive.

“We re-comply everything that goes on to BritBox, and the great thing about on-demand is that you’re not forcing anyone to watch anything,” Ms Sakaan said in comments reported by The Telegraph. Other programmes that have just slipped through the net of political correctness will come with “bespoke warnings” about potentially ‘offensive’ content.

While not “forcing anyone to watch anything”, the service inhibits the freedom to watch ‘what you want’.

Till Death Do Us Part ran on the BBC from 1965 to 1975 and centred on Alf Garnett — a bigoted character who writer Johnny Speight wrote to be laughed at, not sympathised with — and the relationship with his family, including his socialist, unemployed son-in-law played by Tony Booth, the real-life father of former prime minister Tony Blair’s wife Cherie Booth. The show was the inspiration for Norman Lear’s U.S. sitcom All in the Family.

The 1970s Thames Television programme Love Thy Neighbour, about a West Indian couple moving next door to a white English couple, will likewise not be available on BritBox. Trinidad-born Nina Baden-Semper, who played female lead Barbie Reynolds, had won an award for Outstanding New Female in programming in 1973. Fellow Trinidadian and co-star Rudolph Walker is now a long-time cast member on the popular British BBC soap opera EastEnders.

Reruns of It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum — the spiritual sequel to Dad’s Army which ran from 1974 to 1981 — were already taken off British airwaves after claims the programme was racist and homophobic.

Even without the censorship, the collection is incomplete as many beloved classic shows are licenced with rival networks. For that reason, BritBox cannot air programmes like Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Alan Partridge, Steptoe and Son (which was remade in the United States as Sanford and Son), and Dad’s Army.

There have already been calls from one ITV programme producer to ban repeats of Dad’s Army on British television because it allegedly inspires pro-Brexit feelings.

Cleansed of politically incorrect programmes, others that have made the cut on BritBox — like Fawlty Towers, Absolutely Fabulous, and Only Fools and Horses — may as yet find themselves at threat of being cancelled thanks to current-year’s shifting cultural sensitivities.

One example arises with the recent screening of Friends. The American nineties sitcom that was progressive for its time — for showcasing gay couples, discussing gender politics, and countering traditional life goals by having most of the characters remain childless, single, and still renting shared apartments until they were in their late twenties/early thirties — fell foul of contemporary sensibilities when screened on Netflix in 2018.

Some viewers had called the show homophobic, sexist, fatphobic, transphobic, and criticised it for lacking racial diversity. Despite complaints on social media, the service renewed the programme’s licence for another year. The objections from a minority appeared not to have affected the programme’s viewing numbers, with an Ofcom report released in August revealing that Friends is the most popular show on streaming services in the UK.

Analysts do not expect BritBox to become a serious rival to Netflix or Amazon Prime, according to The Times.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.