Comedy is one of the toughest genres to get right - but one viewers value highly.

When the global news is dominated by doom and gloom, it's nice to have a bit of light relief - so it's great to know that UK comedy still rocks. There's ratings and viewer loyalty in them thar comedy hills, and the broadcast sector is doing pretty well at mining for gold. We're in the middle of an inventive, quirky period and there's a plethora of new shows - from CGI-laden The Wrong Door to superhero-heavy No Heroics.

The more mainstream shows are also doing well. As Paul Jackson leaves his role as director of entertainment and comedy at ITV, he can be proud of the fact that Benidorm is a stonking success, peaking at nearly 7 million viewers - proof that ITV can still do successful peaktime sitcoms.

The seemingly effortless nature of the genre when it works belies the difficulty of making good shows - as any comedy producer will know. When it works it appears simple: the fanbase kicks in, the catchphrases enter the vernacular and the downloads soar. But there's no question it can be one of the most difficult genres to get right - when it bombs, it really bombs.

There might be a comedy goldmine under the industry's feet, but it still has to work long and hard to get to the precious metal. By its very nature, comedy needs to be inventive - anarchic even - and it's inherently risky and expensive. For every hit, there's usually a flop that's been moved in the schedule or quietly dropped.

In the current PSB debate with children's and news grabbing the headlines, comedy risks being ignored. As Rob Brydon points out in his interview with Broadcast this week, comedy is valued by viewers very highly. It also forms an important social commentary on our times and deserves funding and protection.

Against this backdrop, there is clearly a need to nurture talent in the sector. Brydon talks about his aim to help talented people. Set a comedian to find a comedian seems to be a sensible approach.

It's no surprise that a string of stand-ups and comedy writers have started their own indies with the support of comedy giants - Armstrong and Miller's Toff Media, backed by Hat Trick, Graham Linehan's own label supported by Fremantle's talent fund, and Brydon's Arbie, launched with Miles Ross and backed by Talkback Thames.

All will be working with new talent, which is important because nobody knows where the next comic genius might be found. Possibly online, with a grassroots following. Possibly down the pub. But, as ever, it's about finding the balance between the industry heavy-weights - with their contacts and financial clout - and comedy's incessant need for new entrants to keep shaking things up. That's where the real gold is.
Emily Booth, Acting Editor