30 October, 2008

"Writer claims BBC stole sitcom idea"

Katherine Rushton, Broadcast:

"A row has erupted over BBC sitcom In My Country after comedy writer Jim Miller claimed the corporation stole his idea.

Simon Nye has been commissioned to script the series, billed as a "multicultural Rising Damp", with Jane Berthoud producing. Stephen K Amos and Omid Djalili will star.

Miller, who writes for stand-up comics such as Jo Brand, claims he approached the BBC in 2006 with a similar series also featuring immigrants in a London guest house under the working title Settle Down Now.

Miller claims the corporation paid him £500 for a treatment, which was also overseen by Berthoud. Plans for a pilot episode fell apart and he parted with the BBC after it agreed he would get 50% of future format rights.

He also claims the BBC contacted his agent in July offering to pay £2,500 for unspecified rights to work he had done for the corporation. Miller claims he did not sign any contract but that the sum was paid into his bank account in any case.

He is now seeking a joint credit on In My Country and to keep the £2,500 as payment for his alleged input. The Writers' Guild is looking into the matter on his behalf and he has complained directly to BBC director general Mark Thompson and the BBC Trust.

The BBC said both In My Country and Settle Down Now were developed in parallel, that neither writer knew about the other project and that similarities were "nothing more than coincidence".

A BBC spokesperson said: "Having fully investigated Jim Miller's claims, the BBC is certain that it has not used any intellectual property owned by Jim Miller and that he has no legitimate claim to the format of In My Country.""

1 comment:

Jonny Quest said...

Intellectual property is a huge grey area!!! I went to see Ghost Town last night a film I wanted to avoid as it sounded very similar to a feature I have been picking at for over 5 years now, however upon seeing the film the base story is the only similarity that is to say Gervais is pestered by one dead guy to help him get into heaven and it is a light hearted comedy. My idea on the other hand which has ben locked away for a couple of years now as I work on other things is a whole lot darker.

Jim Miller is very unfortunate in this case as he looks to have no leg to stand on. But if his script was already just a 'multicultural Rising Damp' surely he can't claim to be the sole creator as the format is years old? I mean I am all for him taking on the BBC and wish him the best of luck. I also understand that Step-out lines don't ever do the script justice.

The BBC seem to be getting a very bad name at the moment - finally - I mean that ok their news is the best out there, and they do make some very good programmes but to have a monopoly over the airwaves and then abuse the license fee payers by false phone ins etc. Now with the Brand/Ross fiasco (which I would like to point out has been blown way out of proportion) and plagiarism on there belt maybe people will start to see that the BBC aren't quite the pious company we all thought they were.

Good Luck Jim!!

Jonny Quest