Dimbleby joins attack on 'bureaucratic' BBC

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The Independent Online
DAVID DIMBLEBY, one of the BBC's most celebrated names, has criticised the corporation for its excessive bureaucracy and inertia.

The Question Time presenter also delivered a scathing put-down of the Prime Minister's flirtation with "Cool Britannia". He said he had never been invited to Downing Street in all his years in broadcasting, and added: "Maybe if I snorted coke and had one hit record I would be invited."

But most of Mr Dimbleby's anger was aimed at his employers as he joined the former BBC chairman, Lord Hussey of North Bradley, in criticising the direction of the corporation under its director-general, Sir John Birt. "The BBC has lost the knack of quick decision-making because it relies on endless focus groups and analysis," he said in a Radio Times interview published yesterday.

The post of director-general was advertised this week in advance of Sir John's retirement later this year. Mr Dimbleby, 60, applied for the job in 1987 but lost to Sir Michael Checkland. He would have run the BBC differently from Sir John Birt, who took over in 1992. "I hope I'd have had a subtler ear for broadcasting," he said.

Mr Dimbleby also believed it was "a mistake" for the BBC to chase ratings. "If we just replicate ITV and BSkyB what's the point of us? None at all.There's no point in television that isn't popular, but you don't have to sink to the lowest common denominator," he said.

He particularly opposedthe scheduling of Question Time, saying it was "crazy" to put the programme out after 11pm. "That erodes the image of the BBC as serious and central to British life," he said.