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UK indie alleges BBC copied tribute act format

UK indie Free@Last has claimed British pubcaster the BBC copied one of its formats in order to create tribute act special Even Better Than the Real Thing.

BBC New Broadcasting HouseThe prodco alleges Even Better Than… has many similarities to Make Me a Legend, a Free@Last format created as a coproduction with Trevor Chance’s Legends show in Blackpool that was pitched to the BBC.

As TV and radio site The Airwaves first reported this week, both formats see tribute acts perform songs from iconic artists, with Free@Last’s show ending in a live final sing off in front of a studio audience.

IP firm The Format Factory, acting on behalf of Free@Last, claims 60-minute special Even Better Than… uses the same as the format to the Make Me a Legend finale episode.

Among the other accusations from The Format Factory are that Make Me a Legend was known to BBC executives and producers years before the BBC Studios-produced Even Better Than… was greenlit in August.

According to leaked emails between The Format Factory and the BBC, Make Me a Legend was pitched and rejected at the pubcaster.

BBC Studios’ in-house team later approached the Legends organisation, which holds the UK’s longest running tribute show, for contribution to its show, the Format Factory claims.

The BBC’s head of business affairs, Mike Griffiths, has told The Format Factory the complaint was taken “very seriously”, but rejected its merits.

“We are satisfied that there has been no cross-over between the BBC Studios development of Even Better Than the Real Thing and your clients’ pitch for Make Me a Legend,” Griffiths said in an email.

“We are further satisfied that Even Better Than the Real Thing was independently created by BBC Studios and its format is significantly different to Make Me a Legend.”

He added there have been many talent shows that feature tribute acts, and that live finals and public votes are generic to talent formats.

The BBC also played down Format Factory allegations that the BBC Studios, which became a commercial subsidiary of the BBC earlier this year, competing with indie for commissions from BBC Commissioning was “a massive conflict of interest”.

“The BBC is satisfied that Even Better Than The Real Thing was developed independently by BBC Studios, and BBC Entertainment strongly refutes any conflict of interest regarding its commissioning process,” said a BBC spokesman.

“BBC Studios is a commercial company that operates entirely separately from BBC Commissioning; they compete for commissions from the BBC like any other producer.”

Free@Last couldn’t be contacted before press time, but had declined to comment to The Airwaves on legal grounds.

The prodco is best known for Sky1 comedy-drama Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death and factual series such as ITV3’s Martina Cole’s Ladykillers.

There are a number of ongoing format disputes in international TV. This week, Talpa Media has been in a Dutch court defending itself from claims from Irish producer Roy Barry that The Voice was a copy of a format he created of the same name.