Channel 4 buys Hitler painting – and can let Jimmy Carr destroy it | Channel 4


Channel 4 has purchased an Adolf Hitler painting and will allow a studio audience to decide whether Jimmy Carr should burn it with a flamethrower.

As part of its final season of programming, the broadcaster has purchased artwork by “problematic” artists, including Pablo Picasso, as well as convicted pedophile Rolf Harris and sex offender Eric Gill.

An upcoming talk show titled Art Trouble, airing later this month, will then explore whether you can really separate a work of art from its creator – before deciding which pieces to destroy with a variety of tools.

Ian Katz, Channel 4’s programming director, confirmed that if the studio audience chose to save the Hitler painting, it would not be hung in the Channel 4 boardroom but would be disposed of “appropriately”.

He suggested that if Channel 4 were privatized by the government, a for-profit owner was unlikely to take such risks: “This type of programming is difficult and expensive. And probably not a rational, commercial approach.

Katz explained the concept of the show. “There are advocates for every work of art,” he said. “So you have a Hitler defender. There will be someone who will not defend Hitler, but the fact that his moral character should not decide whether a work of art exists or not.

He said Art Trouble celebrated Channel 4’s long tradition of “iconoclasm and irreverence”, which once saw her televise an autopsy and give people drugs live.

Channel 4 hired an art expert to buy the works “from reputable auction houses”, although there is a long history of doubts about Hitler’s art attribution. Given the broadcaster’s budget, Picasso’s work is “a vase of a certain description” rather than one of his paintings.

Carr himself has come under fire for his jokes, including one about the Holocaust in a recent Netflix special condemned by a litany of anti-hate groups earlier this year.

Katz unveiled details of the program in an interview reflecting his five years as programming director of Channel 4. The broadcaster, which celebrates its 40th anniversary next month, is facing pressure from the continued decline of live television traditional, and has been overtaken by Netflix in terms of overall UK TV viewership – while continuing to fight government attempts to privatize the channel.

“There’s no denying it’s a lot harder to reach a large audience these days,” Katz said. “The broadcasting environment is completely different from what it was 40 years ago when there were two other state broadcasters and Channel 4 came onto the scene.”

He warned that this encourages TV curators to stick to proven formats rather than taking chances on more experimental productions, such as comedies Stath Lets Flats or We Are Lady Parts. “I could put true crime in just about any slot machine and probably get double the ratings,” he said.

Ian Katz revealed details of the program in an interview looking back on his five years as Channel 4’s programming director. Photograph: Roger Tooth/The Guardian

Katz quoted Jeremy Isaacs, the station’s founder, as saying Channel 4 should be watched by everyone once in a while – but not everyone all the time. “I think you could add that Channel 4 should annoy everyone once in a while, but ideally not everyone all the time,” he added.

Channel 4 has a history of nurturing new talent, such as comedian Mo Gilligan and End of the Fucking World writer Charlie Covell, only to see them move on to bigger deals elsewhere.

Katz said he was trying to keep in touch with the stars and offer them the chance to return to Channel 4 for more experimental material. “No one wants to see all their children locked up at home. But you want them to come back and see you once in a while for Sunday lunch,” he said.

Another problem is when the broadcaster’s own staff object to the release. He said that with particular territories “you are entering a very contested and extremely emotional area and you have to walk with real care and sensitivity”.

He added: “When I first came on, we had a movie about trans kids that caused a lot of debate and a lot of pain, off the channel and inside the channel… It just makes a bit about the process of solving some of these problems. more complex and it takes a lot of care and sensitivity in how you approach them.

Katz also reflected on the latest Channel 4 controversy, when Bake Off presenters Matt Lucas and Noel Fielding were accused of cultural insensitivity towards Mexicans. He said, “I’m hugely passionate about all aspects of Mexico and its culture and would hate to offend anyone in Mexico.”

Katz, a former deputy editor of the Guardian, was a surprise choice for the job when he was promoted from BBC Newsnight editor to Channel 4 program director in January 2018.

“In my freshman year, the learning curve was very, very steep,” he said. “I think I knew half a dozen viewers and the first thing I had to do was find out who everyone was. But you don’t realize until you do that Channel 4 is there. freest place in the world to make television.

Plans to produce a series about modern Britain presented by Paul Dacre have been ‘put on hold’ after the former Daily Mail editor became too busy with other projects, although the broadcaster is continuing with a documentary about men with abnormally large penises.

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