Writer of BBC, PBS Newspaper Drama 'Press' Talks Fake News, "Demagogue" Trump

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Mike Bartlett

"A lot of the stuff to do with Trump actually is the same old stuff with new names," says Mike Bartlett, who explains why the show won't try to represent current events or real-life people.

British playwright Mike Bartlett, the writer and executive producer of BBC hit drama Doctor Foster and upcoming newspaper industry drama Press, says his new show will not pick up the recent debate about fake news per se and not look to portray current real-life politicians and reporters. 

Press, which PBS Masterpiece will premiere in the U.S., will "explore the turbulent media landscape through the fortunes of competing broadsheet and tabloid papers and the very different and colorful characters who work for them," the BBC said previously in announcing the six-part series.

Speaking to reporters in Liverpool during the annual BBC Worldwide Showcase, the world’s biggest TV sales market hosted by a single distributor, Bartlett said the show would feature fictional characters and politicians and explore such long-term issues as privacy and how journalists get stories rather than trying to stay on top of latest industry debates.

The writer said, for example, that he wouldn't spend an episode exploring the recent debate around fake news. "The press is changing every month at the moment," Bartlett said. "So, if we tried to represent either current affairs too closely or real people, or we portrayed the hacking crisis or wrote a whole episode all about fake news, in a month’s time, no one will be talking about fake news, it will be something else."

But Bartlett argued that fake news is just the latest iteration of an underlying debate that has long affected the media industry. "I’d say fake news has always been [an issue]. What paper do you trust? Where do you get your news?" he explained. "You look at the papers and TV news — there has always been discussion about can you trust your information, what are your sources? Fake news is just our latest term for it."

The writer in that context also discussed U.S. president Donald Trump, saying: "A lot of the stuff to do with Trump actually is the same old stuff with new names. We are reacting as though it has never happened before. It doesn’t make it any less shocking, but it’s hardly the first sort of demagogue or wannabe dictator.”

BBC Worldwide is the commercial arm of U.K. public broadcaster BBC and the largest seller of TV content outside of the U.S.