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BBC censor comedy scripts in post-Hutton panic and paranoia

  Posted on 04/02/2004

The BBC faced accusations of vowardice yesterday after cutting part of a Radio 4 comedy script that suggested Tony Blair was a liar. BBC bosses considered scrapping this week's edition of Absolute Power starring Stephen Fry and John Bird as partners in a dodgy PR firm- but in the end they settled for a cut. Bird said: 'It makes the BBC look extreme;ly foolish... if that's what happening in comedy, what's going on in news and current affairs?'

The scene causing the trouble is one in which Fry says: 'There's nothing prentiss McCabe can teach this Prime Minister about deception, manipulation and lying, Except how to do it properly.' The word 'lying' has been cut, and Fry is unavailable to revoice, so 'manipulation' has also been cut to make the line 'sound right.'

Scriptwriter Mark Taverner commented: 'I regret the fact that the line is coming out. I'm not happy.'

In the BBC's inhouse journal Ariel, acting BBC chairman Lord Ryder said the BBC would 'not be cowed' by the Hutton report, although editorial processes had to be 'rigorous.'

The National Union of Journalists have announced a day of protest at the enforced resignation of BBC D-G Greg Dyke.

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