Thursday 29 September 2016

Wolf Hall pair howl warning against plans to reform the BBC

Published 09/05/2016 | 00:11

Mark Rylance made a spirited defence of the BBC at the Bafta TV Awards
Mark Rylance made a spirited defence of the BBC at the Bafta TV Awards

Wolf Hall actor Mark Rylance has led a passionate defence of the BBC at the Bafta TV Awards, as big names from the small screen spoke up ahead of a key week in the future of the public-funded broadcaster.

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Hard-hitting series This Is England '90 and sitcom Peter Kay's Car Share picked up a brace of awards, but the night was dominated by a clarion call defending creativity and impartiality at the BBC which was followed by a call for Culture Secretary John Whittingdale to "consider his position".

Accepting the leading actor award for his role as Thomas Cromwell on a fine night for the Hilary Mantel adaptation, Rylance echoed the thoughts of director Peter Kosminsky as both spoke out ahead of the Government's White Paper on the future of the BBC, widely expected on Thursday.

Rylance said: "The incredible variety of popular culture in this country, it's really blown my mind tonight. I think woe to any government or any corporation that tries to come between that.

"We're a nation of storytellers, we're admired around the world for it and long may it live and long may it be a privilege to the people here without having to watch commercials."

Earlier in the ceremony Kosminsky hit out at the Government, saying it was trying to "eviscerate" the BBC, and adding that he felt now "is a dangerous time for broadcasting in Britain".

Speaking as he accepted best drama series, he also warned that this would mean there would be no more productions like the Tudor drama.

He referred to Mr Whittingdale's reported plans to interfere with the scheduling of shows such as the BBC News and Strictly Come Dancing as similar to the "bastions of democracy Russia and North Korea".

He said: " This is really scary stuff folks, not something I thought I'd see in my lifetime in this country.

"It is not their BBC, it's your BBC. There will be no more Wolf Hall, no more ground-breaking Dispatches."

Speaking after the ceremony to BBC Radio 5 live's Stephen Nolan, Mr Kosminksy went on to criticise Mr Whittingdale.

He said: "He seems, as far as I can see, semi-detached from the present Conservative government leadership in terms of his position on these issues.

"Here is a man who said in Edinburgh that there were no plans to privatise Channel Four, and then just a matter of days later documents were seen from his department which seemed to suggest that he'd been, well, what should we say, 'economical with the truth'.

"I think this man should consider his position."

After his win, Rylance told the Press Association he would not stand for creative freedoms being limited.

He said: "I wouldn't stay around, I would quit immediately, if I'm told how to do something.

"This is where you experience things you can't experience in your life, they have to be wild and they have to be free. They have to be able to make mistakes.

"We have lost the canals, we have lost the high street, we have lost the pubs, we are losing the villages, where is the common culture that is an important part of life here in England?

"They should think very carefully governing people and trying to get in our way of a good story and a true story."

Craig Revel Horwood, a judge on best entertainment programme winner Strictly Come Dancing, added of the Government: "If they are in charge of anything entertainment-wise it would be a complete disaster, we don't want them in charge of any decisions, creatively."

The comedy and comedy entertainment programme category was won by Have I Got News For You.

One of the show's team captains, Ian Hislop, also praised the BBC and its independence.

He said: "I'm reiterating the theme, I'd like to thank the BBC, who have allowed us to be rude about the Government ... and indeed rude about the BBC itself, which is a privilege you are given with public service broadcasting and not on state television."

A senior BBC boss commented on the success of the corporation at the award ceremony, saying it was a "clear indication of a BBC in fine creative form".

And Sir Lenny Henry renewed his call to enshrine diversity in the BBC charter as he accepted the special recognition award for his career in television.

He said: "If it feels like I'm banging on a bit about diversity all the time it's because I believe in increasing it so we truly reflect our fantastic nation, ensuring that all those 14 year olds out there, superglued to their phones who hope to work in TV, irrespective of their race, gender, sexuality, class, disability, can realise that ambition as I was able to realise mine."

Sir Lenny, who was given the Alan Clarke Award, added: "If we do this, we will make this fantastic industry even greater and I know everybody in this room agrees. So please let's keep working together to make this a reality, let's create a coalition of the willing and please let's put this in the charter."

Press Association

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