BBC chairman tries to calm 'hijack' row

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The Independent Online

Gavyn Davies, the chairman of the BBC, sought to calm the storm he caused in accusing educated middle-aged viewers of trying to "hijack" the corporation's output.

Mr Davies, who on Tuesday rounded on those who claimed the BBC was dumbing down, said yesterday he was sorry that his comments had been seen as an attack on the middle classes. He refused to back down from his arguments that BBC services were skewed too far towards "southern, white, middle-class, middle-aged and well-educated" people.

Pointing out that he himself fitted his own description of the BBC's critics, Mr Davies, 51, – educated at Oxford and Cambridge universities – told The World at One on BBC Radio 4: "I am not trying to attack these people at all, and I am very sorry that it has appeared like that in some of the press.

"The only point I am making is that we all pay the licence fee, whoever we are and wherever we come from. When we look at the evidence, some people get really good value for money out of it ... and they tend to be predominantly southern and very well-educated people."

Mr Davies agreed the BBC had to remain alert to the risk of dumbing down."The perception of dumbing down is so pervasive that it worries me that there might be some truth in it," he said. "It's something we have been looking at."

His claims on Tuesday angered the author Sir John Mortimer, who asked: "Does he mean these white middle-class people don't count?" Mr Davies said: "I have written to John to say ... of course I don't mean that they don't count. What I mean is that they count as much as everybody else, and that is a very different thing."