With the new series of ‘The Great British Bake Off’ (GBBO) nearly upon us, the switch of channels and change in judging and presenting line-ups are once again hot topics (for some people anyway – one of the writers’ colleagues is particularly enthusiastic about Noel Fielding’s addition to the presenting team).
Adding a further element to the discussion is the recent announcement that the BBC will be launching another competitive cooking show: ‘Britain’s Best Cook.’ As per the BBC’s announcement on 1st August, the show is to put home cooks through a series of challenges with their skill, repertoire and technical ability being judged by national treasure (and ex GBBO judge) Mary Berry.
Now this might all sound quite familiar and certainly the similarities between the concept for Britain’s Best Cook (on paper – let’s not forget that it hasn’t yet been filmed) and GBBO have been noted in the TV press in recent weeks.
If those similarities are borne out, can GBBO complain that Britain’s Best Cook infringes its copyright?
There has been a long standing debate about whether the format of a television show is protected by copyright but little in the way of case law on the matter: probably the most famous dispute on this subject was the case launched by Pop Idol creator Simon Fuller against the X Factor. However, the matter settled out of court and so we do not know how the Courts would have approached these thorny issues, had they had to be determined.
The principal difficulty in establishing copyright in a TV show format is that copyright does not protect an idea: copyright protects the way that an idea is expressed, provided that the way that the idea is expressed is classed as an original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work, categories which are not easily applied to a TV format. Within any TV programme there will be elements that do attract copyright protection (a script, for example, would be a literary work whereas the graphics for an opening sequence would be artistic works) but there is no law that protects a TV format as a whole.
Given that Channel 4 pay a reported £25million per year for the GBBO, it is anticipated that its lawyers will be looking very closely at Britain’s Best Cook when it does air.
Until then, we’ll enjoy the creativity and skill of the bakers, the complexity of the technical challenges and, of course, Noel Fielding’s colourful shirts.