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British TV show will let audience destroy art by Picasso, Hitler

A television program set to air in the United Kingdom will allow a live studio audience to decide whether a comedian should destroy artwork created by some problematic figures of history.

The show, called “Art Trouble,” is set to debut later this month on Channel 4, one of the country’s terrestrial broadcast networks.

Channel 4 purchased a number of paintings and other artwork created by several controversial figures, including Adolf Hitler, Pablo Picasso and criminal Rolf Harris.

The show will include advocates for and against destroying the artwork. If the audience chooses that the art should be destroyed, comedian and host Jimmy Carr will have a number of tools at his disposal to carry out that task, including a flamethrower and a wood chipper. It was not clear what the network intends to do with art that the audience chooses to save.

The program comes as the British government moves forward with a sale of the broadcast network as part of a broader plan to privatize it. Channel 4 was originally created to provide alternate programming that would compete with mainstream series produced by the BBC, but some lawmakers say that competition is now fulfilled by streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Disney Plus.

Others still maintain that Channel 4 serves the public good by producing and distributing television shows that are intended to reach a unique and diverse audience instead of making money.

“Channel 4 provides competition to the BBC on what’s called public service broadcasting, the kinds of programs that are not commercially viable,” conservative lawmaker Jeremy Hunt said in a statement. “I think it’d be a shame to lose that.”

Ian Katz, the director of programming at Channel 4, agreed with that sentiment, saying any privatization of the network would likely jeopardize the future of programs like “Art Trouble,” which he colored as “difficult and expensive” to produce.

A number of media companies have expressed interest in acquiring some or all of Channel 4, including Warner Bros Discovery, which already operates several localized versions of its Discovery channels as well as the pan-European sports network Eurosport. ITV, Britain’s main commercial network, is reportedly also interested in acquiring Channel 4.

Other foreign companies that could bid for all or some of Channel 4 include Sky Group owner Comcast, Channel 5 operator Paramount Global and European media conglomerate RTL.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).