The level of threat the BBC is under in the run-up to Charter Renewal is in danger of being exaggerated, former BBC Director-General Greg Dyke told Radio 4’s The Media Show.
Dyke was part of a panel discussing the future of the broadcaster, and added that it would be a “terrible mistake” for the BBC to stop making popular shows such as Strictly Come Dancing.
Today, I want to talk about one thing: content, programmes – the reason we’re all here. In this country we have a really vibrant creative ecology of broadcasting. It’s a great national success story.
But the question I want to talk about this afternoon is whether one part of that ecology will continue. Will we carry on making content to the degree and quality that we do now?
I’m concerned that, in all the arguments and debate about the BBC’s Charter, in a decade’s time we might look back and say that we missed something crucial – a big trend.
It is the question that British writers and commissioners perennially ask: which system works best – the UK’s single voice or the US’s showrunner model?
Former head of BBC Worldwide Productions turned independent producer Jane Tranter tried to answer this key question with a panel of writers, who outlined their experiences to see how they compared.
She pointed out that, during her seven years in the US, it was not a subject the industry there generally debated openly.
John Whittingdale was introduced by Convention Chair Tony Hall as “a rare beast, a politician who watches television”, and he began his speech by reminding delegates that, for him, this convention was no baptism of fire.
His first appearance at Cambridge came 12 years ago as Shadow Secretary of State for Culture; he had set up his own panel to review the future funding of the BBC. Then, as now, the corporation’s Charter and licence fee were the key issues on the agenda.
Former Deputy of the Bank of England, Sir David Clementi, will conduct the review.
Introducing Whittingdale to an audience of senior television figures, BBC Director-General Tony Hall remarked, “John Whittingdale is one of those rare politicians who actually watched TV”.
In turn Whittingdale said he was ‘surprised’ that the Charter Renewal Green Paper was seen as a demise of the BBC:
The preliminary programme for this year's RTS Cambridge Convention has been announced.
The convention, held on a biennial basis, brings together leading figures from the television and its related industry.
This year's event looks forward to television in 2020, focusing on the challenge for content, creativity and business models.
The programme features sessions covering foreign ownership of UK production, the rise of the smart phone in television viewing, and the influence of talent in programme-making.
John Whittingdale is a conundrum. A politician who can seem old beyond his 55 years, he has been in Parliament since 1992, nine years longer than David Cameron. And, although only a few years older than his boss, Whittingdale’s style and political heritage are soundly late-Thatcher era, with a voting record that is pro-fox hunting and anti-gay marriage.
Yet, the freshly minted Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport also confounds stereotypes of the shire fogey with a mild interest in Gilbert and Sullivan.
For the past 12 months, the message from Westminster regarding BBC Charter review has been that nothing would happen before the election. Now, of course, it’s as if a starting pistol has been fired.
This is particularly so with sections of the press going into a frenzy of anticipation, based on certain previous statements by the new Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, John Whittingdale.
In Wales, the interviews I’ve been asked to do as Chair of S4C have all been about what it might mean for the future of the Welsh-language channel.
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.