Blackadder’s Millennium Duel

BBC – 13th August 1999
Sky TV claims to have “poached” the Blackadder special.

The BBC and Sky TV are at loggerheads over which of the broadcasters owns the rights to screen a special millennium edition of the hit comedy show Blackadder.

Time for Blackadder, starring show regulars Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson and Tim McInnerny and including cameos from the likes of Kate Moss and Colin Firth, will be part of the year-long celebrations at the Millennium Dome.

The film will first play in the Dome’s Sky-sponsored entertainment venue – Skyscape.

The feature, penned by Richard Curtis and Ben Elton, was in development before Sky offered to fund the millennium event.

Sky television claims to have bought the one-off film for £4m. The satellite broadcaster says this deal gives it “exclusive” rights to air the programme on TV. The BBC, which has made four series of the acclaimed historical sitcom, rubbishes suggestions that the half-hour millennium show will not be seen on the station.
Blackadder not “lost”.

“It is certainly not the case that we have lost Blackadder,” said a BBC spokeswoman. “The stars agreed to do it on the basis that it would be on BBC One.”

However, the corporation has conceded that the stand-alone film, which follows Blackadder and his trusty sidekick Baldrick as they hurtle through time, may be screened first by its satellite rival.

Sky ‘has a deal’

“We have a deal,” insisted a Sky publicist in response. “The BBC are obviously having trouble coming to terms with their loss.”

The company behind the Dome says neither broadcaster has yet secured rights to the show.

“We are currently in discussions with both Sky and the BBC as to the broadcasting of the film after the exhibition closes,” said a spokesman for the New Millennium Experience Company.

If Sky can block the BBC from showing the special, the loss could prove doubly embarrassing for the corporation.

Not only has the BBC been home to the show, which made household names of its stars, since 1983, but this latest disputed episode was produced by the station’s head of comedy Geoffrey Perkins.

The row has surfaced after a number of high-profile defections have dented BBC prestige. The departure of sports presenter Des Lynam to ITV last week has been seen as a particular blow for the company.

The corporation lost film critic Barry Norman to Sky last year. Norman’s 26 years with the BBC had made him one of the station’s most familiar faces.