BBC says TV chat shows face axe
Wednesday 24 February 1999
Meanwhile, Oprah Winfrey, queen of the "confessional" chat show, has promised to revamp her programme because of her regrets over making guests cry and giving a platform to the Ku-Klux-Klan.
Sir Christopher Bland, the BBC chairman, defended the BBC's daytime chat shows in a speech to the television industry last night, but warned that they would be pulled off air if they become "entertainment for entertainment's sake."
Earlier this month it was revealed that guests on The Vanessa Show on BBC1 were actresses hired from a theatrical agency pretending to be members of the public.
In a speech to the Royal Television Society, Sir Christopher said: "These programmes need to remember their public purposes - the moment they become focused on entertainment for entertainment's sake, they lose their value, their integrity, their point - and will lose their place in the BBC's schedules.
"[The] issue is whether daytime chat shows have any place in the mixed economy of a public service broadcaster. I think they do, and they can meet a real audience need. The best of them are good examples of how popularity and public service can be complementary."
Sir Christopher was speaking on the day that Oprah Winfrey, host of the most successful daytime chat show in America, admitted regret about some items she had broadcast on her programme.
"I've been guilty of misusing television," she told the Radio Times. "It is a dangerous medium and is misused all the time. There are shows I should never have put on air. When I had the Ku-Klux-Klan members on and they called me `nigger' and `little monkey' in the break, I realised I'm not going to change these lunatics, so I need to be more careful who I empower by giving a platform."
She said she also regretted a show where a man confessed to his wife that his mistress was pregnant: "The look on the wife's face broke my heart."
Ms Winfrey attacked the vulgarity of her American rival Jerry Springer, whose shows she described as being "like a Roman circus".
But despite saying earlier this month that she was getting out of television before someone was killed live on air, Ms Winfrey said her research into slavery for a film role has made her change her mind: "I've come from a people who had no voice, money or shoes to run, but they ran anyway. How dare I say I felt tired?"
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