Radio 4 defends David Mitchell Anne Frank joke

The commissioning editor has defended airing the Peep Show comedian's controversial Anne Frank comments.


The BBC Radio 4 commissioning editor responsible for comedy has defended the decision to air comedian David Mitchell’s controversial comments about Anne Frank.

In today’s Feedback programme, Caroline Raphael said she did not regret the decision to broadcast the comment made on quiz show, The Unbelievable Truth, earlier this month.

Mr Mitchell, who chairs the programme, said that Anne Frank’s last diary entry was: “It’s my birthday and dad bought me a drum kit.”

The BBC received almost 50 complaints about the comment, which Gillian Walnes, executive director of the Anne Frank Trust, called “thoughtless” and “offensive”.

Today, Ms Raphael said: “We never broadcast anything to deliberately give people offence and while I do understand and appreciate that some people did find this offensive, I stand by the decision to broadcast it.

“Personally I did find this funny. I don’t think it was trivialising the Holocaust, it wasn’t trivialising the nature of her death or the situation they were in.

“For me it actually captures some of the extraordinary spirit of that remarkable girl, Anne Frank, and there was a certain note of affection towards her. After all she was young and if she was a teenager now she might have got a drum kit. It was satirising the situation they were in.

“We are sorry we distressed them but that slot has millions of listeners and a small proportion were disturbed but I genuinely think the majority found it funny.”

When asked if the script was checked before hand and if the BBC stood behind it, she said: “Every process was gone through properly. It was written, David Mitchell was happy to read it out, the audience laughed. It was signed off at every point.”

Mr Mitchell defended the comment himself in an article in the Observer and said that, despite not writing the joke himself, he found it “funny”.

He wrote: “I understand why some people were upset and I'm sorry that they were. But I don't regret telling it because I honestly think saying that in an irreverent comedy show is fine.

“The tragic circumstances give it an edge and make the audience more likely to laugh, but that's not the same as finding the Holocaust funny.”

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