Saturday 24 March 2018

Edinburgh TV Festival comes to a close

The Edinburgh International Television Festival was dominated by BBC debate
The Edinburgh International Television Festival was dominated by BBC debate

The Edinburgh International Television Festival will come to a close today after a few days in which debate surrounding the BBC dominated discussion.

BBC Two controller Kim Shillinglaw is taking part in a session this morning in which topics are expected to include how to replace Jeremy Clarkson and The Great British Bake Off.

Ms Shillinglaw is expected to talk about why the channel still matters. The future of the BBC, its funding, and what it should and should not be doing has been much discussed during the festival.

Last night First Minister Nicola Sturgeon demanded that Scotland must get a dedicated BBC television channel to counter the often "ill-informed" coverage of London-based journalists who have "totally failed" to cover constitutional change.

As a minimum, Ms Sturgeon called for BBC editors based within Scotland to have greater ability to influence UK reporting, a specific Scottish site for iPlayer programmes, Scottish Parliament oversight for the BBC in Scotland, greater use of Scottish opt-outs, and more powers for the BBC commissioners based in Scotland, during her Alternative MacTaggart lecture.

Ms Sturgeon insisted she does not believe the BBC's coverage of the referendum was biased, but said BBC network journalists flown in during the final stages of the campaign "sounded less than fully informed".

Her proposals would make the next BBC charter, which is due to run until 2027, fit for purpose "for many years to come - whatever our future constitutional relationship may be", she said.

Meanwhile, writer and director Armando Iannucci said the BBC should look at the possibility of expanding.

He launched a passionate defence of the corporation in his James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture and said British television needs support amid political attacks.

The satirist warned that tampering with the BBC would be "madness", and that politicians - with no expertise in the area - have got the British television industry "completely wrong".

He also suggested the BBC could take pressure off the licence fee by selling shows more aggressively abroad.

And in a post-lecture interview, he said: "It's absolutely fine to have a debate about the BBC, what works and what doesn't work, and so on. But let's have that debate properly and not make it just about the negatives, but also let's emphasise the positives.

"And then also let's talk not just about the possibility of cutting it back but actually the other possibility of expanding it, expanding it commercially."

In a separate session, former Crimewatch presenter Nick Ross said the BBC is "killing itself".

He also said the corporation needs to supplement the licence fee with other income.

Ross told a packed audience at an event called The BBC: Under Siege that he is pro-BBC and thinks it is fantastic, but added: "I believe that the BBC is frankly killing itself, very slowly, strangling itself."

He said he sees an organisation clinging to a system where it will have to "fight" to survive every year or every 10 years, and will only get "more and more diminished".

Another festival talking point has been the scheduling controversy between Strictly Come Dancing and The X Factor.

Press Association

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