BBC Studios have become embroiled in what they are claiming is the theft both of one of their programmes and of their name by a company calling itself BBC Stewdios.
BBC Stewdios have sold a sitcom pilot idea – Stepson & Co – to E4 (part of Channel 4) about an old-man/young-man rag-and-bone man team. The show is set in the 1990s and bears some similarity to the 1960s-1970s BBC TV father-and-son sitcom Steptoe and Son, which was also about an old-man/young-man rag-and-bone man team.
However, BBC Stewdios claim their sitcom characters were independently developed by producers in their company, none of whom had ever heard of Steptoe & Son and that the setting – the 1990s – clearly distinguishes it from the BBC’s product… Steptoe and Son ran on BBC TV for around ten years.
As for any similarities in the company names, BBC Stewdios have issued a press release saying they came up with their name independently and they had not previously heard of BBC Studios. They say:
“We had obviously heard of the BBC in various contexts – the British Bathroom Company, the Berkshire Boys’ Choir
and, of course, the Blair Broadcasting Corporation based in Iowa – but not the British Broadcasting Corporation.
“Our name came about because our founder John Charles Walsham likes Irish Stew and his Spanish mother used to say it was their family’s God: thus the name Stew-Dios… and ‘BBC’ was decided on because our ideas are Big, Brassy and Creative – thus the name ‘BBC Stewdios’.
“There is a tradition of three-letter names being used by a large range of television companies – ITV, ABC, CBS, NBC – it is the Rule of Three. We believe there is room in broadcasting for two BBCs and we see a clear distinction between BBC Stewdios and BBC Studios, just as there is room in broadcast TV for two rag-and-bone men sitcom series and we see a clear creative distinction between our Stepson & Co sitcom and the BBC’s ten-year run of Steptoe and Son shows, of which we were honestly and innocently totally unaware.
“BBC Studios claim their Steptoe and Son sitcom is widely known and respected, but our producer Ken Bawdell had neither seen nor heard of Steptoe and Son.”
When contacted for comment, Ken Bawdell said: “I don’t take much interest in the broadcast television industry… They’re not nearly as important as they think they are”.
Meanwhile Carl Columbia, Controller of E4, has been quoted as saying: “Channel 4 has a statutory public service remit that it should ‘be innovative and distinctive’. We are satisfied that there has been no infringement of intellectual property by BBC Stewdios in this case and there is plenty of room in the industry for two companies called the BBC.”
A BBC Stewdios spokesperson said: “It is a case of pot-kettle-black. BBC Studios have a long-established reputation for ripping-off ideas. Anyone approached by them should expect and prepare for the worse and neither get their hopes up nor give up their day job. Sadly, it now seems necessary to give the same warning about E4 and Channel 4… #JusticeForObonjo“