BBC `must stay out of celebrity bidding wars'

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The Independent Online
THE BBC must stop competing with commercial television for expensive celebrities and concentrate instead on improving its training of new talent, Lord Puttnam, the government adviser and a former film producer, said yesterday.

"What the corporation absolutely should not be doing is engaging in a bidding war for financially aggressive, mature talent, whose natural home has become the commercial sector," Lord Puttnam told a meeting of MPs.

"We must ensure that training remains at the heart of the BBC's remit. One of the fundamental principles of a guaranteed licence fee must be an obligation to uphold production values right across the broadcast spectrum."

Television is full of young "techno nerds" who could do amazing things with pictures and graphics, but had little idea how to build up a narrative, Lord Puttnam said. "In the rush to master the equipment, many of the underlying `aesthetic' skills are beginning to be marginalised. We are in danger of ending up with a generation of `techno whizz kids' who are woefully lacking in the ability to realise a coherent narrative through any sensitive understanding of the underlying principles of pace, tone and structure." The BBC, he said, should show leadership by teaching such people to focus on content and to use the new technologies creatively.

Lord Puttnam added:"If the BBC doesn't seize the opportunities which are clearly there for the taking, someone else surely will. There are many out there who would give their eye teeth to become the global `educational' brand. Whether it be our own commercial broadcasters - as they consolidate and extend their reach - or the dread spectre of Rupert Murdoch, or some other, as yet unknown mogul with a voracious appetite and deep pockets, anyone with the remotest commercial savvy knows this is a fantastic opportunity."