BBC is dumbing down TV and radio, say stars

Corporation stung by criticism from two of its biggest names
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The Independent Online

Two of the BBC's biggest stars have launched stinging attacks on the corporation over the quality of its programming on television and radio.

Sir David Attenborough will tonight accuse the BBC, already reeling from its rough treatment in the Hutton report, of concentrating on lifestyle shows rather than public service commitments.

The DJ Mark Radcliffe, known for his irreverent pairing with his BBC Radio 1 sidekick Marc "Lard" Riley, has fired a parting shot at his bosses by admitting he "hates" the music he is forced to play.

Sir David - a former controller of BBC2, who has made award-winning landmark natural history programmes such as Life on Earth - says classical drama and science are being neglected.

His attack comes in an edition of Panorama, "What's the Point of the BBC?", which is the latest act of self-flagellation by the BBC in the wake of the Hutton report.

During a studio debate he says of the corporation: "I think there are great areas of drama which it doesn't tackle, classical drama of one sort or another.

"Science has one programme on BBC [television], but very little on BBC1, and it should be at the core of what people should be interested in and be learning about.

"So if you have three programmes on gardening, then I would suggest you drop one of them, or maybe even two of them and do some of these other things."

On Friday nights, BBC2 occasionally schedules three gardening shows back to back.

Sir David's views come almost a year after the BBC's former director-general, Greg Dyke, said BBC2 would be "reducing its reliance" on leisure programmes.

Perhaps ironically, former Gardeners' World host Alan Titchmarsh is stepping into Sir David's shoes to front a new BBC natural history series.

Mr Radcliffe aired his views as he prepares to leave Radio 1 after more than a decade at the station to take up a late-night slot on Radio 2.

The move signals the end of his partnership with Mr Riley, who is being given his own Saturday afternoon show on the BBC's digital station 6 Music. The duo built up a cult following playing credible tracks on their old 10pm show on Radio 1. However, the afternoon show they have hosted since 1997 has meant they have been increasingly obliged to play chart hits from the station's playlist rather than the obscure classics they championed.

Station bosses are believed to have taken advantage of the pair's contract coming up for renewal to end their tenure at Radio 1. Both presenters, who are in their 40s, are much older than the target audience of under-24s.

Speaking about his move, Mr Radcliffe said: "I'm looking forward to not hating the records quite as much as I have recently.

"It's been a bit difficult at Radio 1 for a while - but I'm a 45-year-old bloke, it's not what I like. There's not much there for me, which is why I'm leaving."

Mr Radcliffe, who has worked for the BBC for 20 years, initially as a producer, said he and Mr Riley had pondered whether they should keep the double act going.

"In the end the decision was taken out of our hands," Mr Radcliffe said.

A spokesman for Radio 1 said: "Mark is completely entitled to his opinion."