“Succession” writer Lucy Prebble and “His Dark Materials” and “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” writer Jack Thorne did not mince their words while reacting to the proposed rules for ‘Britishness’ in content that were suggested in September.
The rules, which were proposed by John Whittingdale, then Minister for Media and Data, just before he was sacked, call for “content that contributes to British culture and allows U.K. audiences to see their own way of life and representations of themselves reflected on TV.” A white paper on the rules is meant to be introduced in the U.K. parliament this fall.
“Maybe foolishly I don’t believe it will happen, and that might be a terrible myopic sleepwalking into terrible fascism,” said Prebble. “I feel like it’s an empty gesture towards a fictional audience that the government wants to placate in order to look like they’re paying attention while it basically gives money back to rich people, which I think is most of what’s going on.”
“And if they’re passionate about it, don’t privatize Channel 4, and don’t sell it to Discovery, that won’t help,” Thorne added.
Thorne said it was much harder to make shows about the grimmer British subjects because they don’t attract American money. “You can’t attract American money in order to make a show about the British prison system,” said Thorne. “Because Americans are going to be like, ‘Well, we’ve got our own prison system, so we’ll make our own show about that.’ Whereas we really do need those stories told.”
“Social realism is one of Britain’s finest genres and being able to tell those stories is something that’s really vital,” Thorne added. “And I don’t quite know what the future is for those things in this global marketplace.”
Thorne recently wrote single drama “Help” for Channel 4 — a searing commentary of the U.K. government’s paltry attention to care homes during the pandemic. The show, which premiered in September, starred Jodie Comer and Stephen Graham and was set in a Liverpool care center.
Thorne and Prebble were on a BFI London Film Festival panel on Thursday discussing writing across platforms alongside “Peaky Blinders” creator Steven Knight. The panel was moderated by Variety international editor Manori Ravindran.
Knight struck a note of positivity on the subject. “There is a lot of hope out there for English writers writing about English things and I don’t think that that ability that Britain has always had is going to necessarily disappear or be buried,” Knight said.