Teletubbies 'could transform North Korea' says DUP MP Jim Shannon

By Stephen Walker
BBC NI political reporter


The Strangford MP Jim Shannon believes the BBC children's programme Teletubbies could change attitudes in North Korea.

The DUP man has backed a House of Commons motion that calls for BBC programmes to be extended to the Korean peninsula.

The early day motion says: "The broadcast of programmes like Teletubbies would change the attitudes of the North Korean dictatorship, which has incarcerated more than 200,000 of its citizens in gulags."

It also says that "the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs would be better advised to support an extension of BBC World Service programming to the Korean Peninsula, promoting Britain's cherished belief in democracy and human rights".

Mr Shannon told the BBC that people in the UK take access to the media "for granted", and the broadcasting of BBC programmes in North Korea would "open up life for millions of people in that country".

North Korea is one of the few countries still under nominally communist rule. The country emerged in 1948 amid the chaos following the end of World War II, and was dominated by Kim Il-sung, who shaped political affairs for almost half a century.

Image source, AP
Image caption, North Korean soldiers perform on May Day in the capital Pyongyang

It has been one of the world's most secretive societies for decades and tolerates no dissent.

The Strangford MP said it was "really important to have the BBC in North Korea".

Image source, DUP
Image caption, Jim Shannon said North Koreans could benefit from watching BBC programmes

He said that many thousands of people in the country had been persecuted and many were still being denied the "basics of life" . The MP said he wanted Westminster to "show people in North Korea that there is a different world".

Teletubbies became an instant hit with children when it was first broadcast in 1997. Although it was aimed at younger viewers, it did attract a cult following among the older generation notably college students.

When asked by the BBC, Mr Shannon admitted he was not a regular Teletubbies viewer, but he insisted that the motion was about trying to give North Koreans access to BBC programmes.

It is not the first time he has supported a Commons motion about the BBC.

Last November, he backed calls to praise the Dr Who programme upon its 50th anniversary in 2013. The DUP MP described Dr Who as "probably one of the best shows the BBC has ever had".

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