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While the BBC had moderate success selling Doctor Who to Mediterranean countries such as Malta and Cyprus in the 1960s, it had only limited success in selling the series to continental Europe.

By mid-1965, the BBC had unsuccessfully offered the series to Yugoslavia, Italy, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany.

Despite the first three serials being sent from New Zealand to Denmark for auditioning in March 1968, the BBC failed to achieve a sale there, and The Ice Warriors was auditioned in Germany two months later, again without a resulting sale.

The Netherlands eventually picked up a limited run of Tom Baker stories in 1975.

While Gibraltar kept up with the series on a regular basis (from 1965 to 1986), since that was a territory of England and broadcast in English, it doesn't really count!

28 February 1977 Daily Mail article (image courtesy of Peter Haining's The Key to Time)

According to the Daily Mail, issue dated 28 February 1977, the reason for this lack of interest on the continent was because "Dr Who is too terrifying for Europe".

This newspaper article declared that: "DR WHO... will not be seen by European youngsters. He is too terrifying. "Our television is regarded as being too violent by the rest of Europe," Mr Brian Keyser, assistant head of sales for BBC Enterprises, said yesterday. "We have found it impossible to sell Dr Who..." Mr Keyser was speaking in Brighton, where the BBC presented a showcase of TV programmes for European buyers yesterday in the hope of raising £500,000. Dr Who will be shown to the delegates from 30 countries at Brighton this week. It has been sold in Canada and Australia, but there it is classified as adult-only viewing..."

A few years later, a couple of countries - Denmark and Italy - did sample some Tom Baker stories in 1979/1980. But it really wasn't until the "Third Wave" in the late 1980s, that the BBC made any real breakthrough with selling the good Doctor to major players in Europe, such as France, Turkey, Spain, Greece, Poland and Germany.

In DWB issue 43 (May 1987), there is a report that a sale was made to Spain "at the recent European TV Fair, months after France did a U-turn". At this TV fair (presumably MIPCOM held in Cannes in October every year, the first of which was in 1985), it would seem that the BBC was successful in selling the series to a number of European countries.

It was reported in DWM #151 (August 1989) that the sale to Germany was due to the annual BBC Showcase held in Brighton. It's likely that other foreign sales were also completed at that time...




WAVE THREE (after the European TV fair)

The UK became a full member of the European Economic Community (EEC) from 1 January 1973, which would probably account for the successful WAVE TWO sales in the mid-70s.

From the late 1980s, Europe was also served by a number of UK-based Cable and Satellite stations, such as Super Channel, BBC Prime, and BSB, plus European stations like TV4 SF; for some countries in Europe, this was the only method by which they could see Doctor Who...

Europe in Doctor Who

Non country specific references to Europe have featured in the following stories: