Andrew Marr

The BBC needs to broaden its range, says Sir David Attenborough

(Credit: Paul Hampartsoumian)

It’s a rare that two thoroughgoing BBC men are seen smiling, let alone laughing, inside the precincts of the House of Commons. When senior BBC people visit Parliament, they are invariably greeted by sceptical MPs, keen to give them a rough time. 

The atmosphere could not have been more different when, last month, the RTS invited Andrew Marr and Sir David Attenborough to hold a conversation at the Commons.  

Sir David Attenborough: BBC licence fee is the biggest possible bargain in Britain

David Attenborough speaking to the RTS (Credit: Paul Hampartsoumian)

Speaking to the RTS All Party Parliamentary Group in the House of Commons the veteran natural history broadcaster said that today’s BBC commissioners were reluctant to back lengthy documentaries dealing with serious topics.

“One of the things which BBC Two did very well was to make serious programmes on serious subjects – 13 part series. That requires three years. There’s a great reluctance elsewhere to do those sorts of programmes…

“Today there is a tendency to do shorter series” He added to audience laughter: “’Today we present a new two-part series.’”

Paxman and Stewart on TV's election coverage

Jeremy Paxman and Alastair Stewart

Alastair Stewart may have hosted British television’s first political leaders’ debate in April 2010 but, more often than not, it was Jeremy Paxman who had the last word at a rumbustious RTS Legends lunch in May.

Steve Hewlett was the ringmaster at this highly entertaining event, which sought to bring an insider’s perspective to the recent general election.

For much of the time, the two TV anchor men agreed to disagree. Paxman was as cynical as Stewart was enthusiastic. Maybe he’d recently attended a positive-thinking course.