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BBC Radio 4 – The Media Show

Does he worry about going too far in Black Mirror?

“I don’t think so. I don’t think there’s a problem if you’re approaching things thoughtfully, what worries me… is disinformation, that really worries me, or, the potential. There was a thing a couple of months ago – an image of the pope in a puffer jacket that was quite funny that went viral and it was generated by generative AI. And that is, that’s amusing, but also utterly terrifying when you can see where that’s going to go.”

“Truthful looking lies that’s, a worry, isn’t it? There were images of Donald Trump being arrested weren’t there, that were fake. It’s ironic that that is fake news. That I find terrifying, the thought of that going unchecked.”

He didn’t graduate from college

Charlie started a BA in Media Studies at the Polytechnic of Central London (now the University of Westminster) but he never completed it.

“I wrote a dissertation on video games and they… dismissed it out of hand because they said it did’t count. Now that would be fine,” says Charlie highlighting the change in attitude to one of the UK’s hugely successful industries.

“It was nearly 25,000 words on Sonic the Hedgehog, effectively, so I could understand, to be fair, why they… and I hadn’t checked with anyone whether that was okay.”

“So I didn’t get my degree because they said that didn’t count. And I then I had seven years to write a follow up dissertation and I didn’t bother.”

Charlie previously worked as a TV critic for The Guardian – what does he make of the Phillip Schofield story?

“It’s a very difficult situation to comment on that I don’t really know,” says a diplomatic Charlie. “I tried not to watch too much of the coverage – I actually haven’t even had a TV aerial in my house for two years now.”

“That’s not through some sort of Luddite style I-refuse-to-watch-the-mainstream-media type of thing. It was literally, we had our loft done and, and somebody cut through the cord and I haven’t bothered to put it back on.”

Charlie describes himself as a ‘news avoider’

“I did end of year shows quite often,” says Charlie talking about the Screenwipe TV series spinoffs that he presented up until 2016. “I think this is one of the reasons why I don’t watch much of the news anymore… I would have to summarise the year, which involved watching a lot of footage, obviously. And that would ruin my Christmas every year… it would really depress me, sometimes it would genuinely get me down.”

“I remember when I was growing up, another thing I used to like watching was things like Spitting Image, or Not the Nine O’clock News which would satirize what was going on in the world at the time.”

“And it would be comforting in a way that there were other people looking at the Cold War and saying, this is scary, but let’s, let’s [find the comedy in it].”

“Then you realise, ‘But I’m just as scared and confused as anyone else’. That’s a sort of horrible destabilising feeling.”

Why did Black Mirror move to Netflix?

The first two series of Black Mirror were made for Channel 4 before it moved to Netflix. So what brought about the switch?

“The boring reality is that what happened was they [Channel 4] were sort of like, ‘This show is expensive.’”

From this the idea of doing it is a co-production with an American production company came up. At the same time Black Mirror had developed a cult following over there which led to greater interest amongst the US networks.

“And so when we actually found a sort of partner in Netflix, they were saying to us, ‘Well, you can do two seasons’ and this, that and the other. And Channel 4 wanted to go through all the outlines and everything in advance before they’d green light the episodes. We’d previously had a situation where I’d sent some ideas for a potential third series and they’d rejected them all.”

Subsequent series have been made for Netflix rather than the UK broadcaster.

“I would’ve preferred it if Channel 4 had been more in the mix,” says Charlie. “I want to write and create things, and so if I’m being offered a lot of freedom to do that, then I’m, you’re going to take it.”

How does he see the future of public service broadcasting in the UK?

“I love the BBC for instance, and I owe a lot to the BBC. I hope the license fee stays but it’s easy for me to say that.”

“It’s a cliche to say it, but in times when there’s a big national story, everyone does turn to the BBC and it’s got an important role in trying to bring the truth to, to people in a way that’s impartial or as impartial as in, in a way that’s going to annoy everyone,” laughs Charlie.

“But how do you finance it? I don’t know, there’s a question above my head.”

You can listen to Charlie Brooker’s interview in full here.

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