Don’t mention those classics: BritBox skips “inappropriate” shows
James R | On 10, Nov 2019
This weekend marks the official launch of BritBox, the new streaming service trying to take on Netflix.
A joint venture from the BBC and ITV, BritBox is a subscription platform aiming to push back against the competition of the SVOD giants that have established themselves in living rooms across the country. While they have previously become a collecting point for BBC, Channel 4 and ITV archives, the public service broadcasters are looking to bring back some eyeballs to their own services – not just their catch-up apps but a new platform to appeal to a generation now used to paying for things monthly. Priced at £5.99 a month, the service offers BBC and ITV programmes once they’ve departed their respective catch-up services or licences on other SVOD platforms have expired, factual and entertainment content from Channel 5 following a 30 day catch-up window on the My5 service, plus 1,000 hours of content from All 4. Box sets range from Victoria and Happy Valley to Broadchurch, Les Miserables, Downton Abbey and Love Island.
While the collective arsenal of classics are a powerful weapon in the streaming wars – more similar to Disney+ than Apple TV+, which has to build its own library from scratch – some classics will not be included. Why? Because they’ve dated since their were first aired and are now deemed for modern viewers.
Excluded box sets range from BBC’s Till Death Us Do Part to ITV’s Love Thy Neighbour, because of content deemed racist or otherwise unacceptable.
“We recomply everything that goes on to BritBox [with modern TV viewing standards],” Reemah Sakaan, the senior ITV executive responsible for launching the SVOD platform, told The Guardian. “There’s also the ability to create bespoke warnings around key programming.”
1965’s Till Death Us Do Part, featuring the bigoted Alf Garnett, and 1970’s Love Thy Neighbour, a sitcom about a West Indian couple who live next door to a white English couple, will not stream on BritBox. Neither will It Ain’t Half Hot Mum. Some episodes of Only Fools and Horses and Fawlty Towers, which could be deemed inappropriate, will run with warnings about offensive language.
BritBox is subject to a less stringent set of rules than linear broadcast channels, notes The Guardian, with the vetting of programmes being carried out voluntarily by ITV’s compliance team. That way, the streaming service hopes that any older titles, which would have escaped the modern standards of the broadcasting code, do not cause any scandal or PR disaster.
“The scale of British content available eclipses what is on any other streaming service,” Sakaan. It’s just a question of making sure that it’s the right British content doing the eclipsing.