Paxman criticises media response to Blair's attack

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In picking on The Independent in his now-infamous speech attacking the "feral beasts" of the media, Tony Blair chose a "pathetic target", Jeremy Paxman declared in his speech to the Edinburgh International Television Festival yesterday.

TheNewsnight presenter defended The Independent, insisting that "if any paper chooses not to be part of the pack, it's the Indy". But he said the media's response to the former Prime Minister's attack had also been "pretty pathetic".

Paxman also cast doubt on how many more licence fee settlements the Corporation would be able to secure in a fragmented media age. "The idea of a tax on the ownership of television belongs in the 1950s. Why not tax people for owning a washing machine to fund the manufacture of Persil?" he asked. Newsnight has had to make budget cuts of 15 per cent over the past three years, with a further 20 per cent being sought over the next five years, he said. "I can't see how the programme can survive in anything like its current form if the cuts are implemented."

On the subject of media and politics, Paxman refused to give Mr Blair an easy ride: "We do not need to take seriously complaints about the marginalising of Parliament from a Prime Minister who could hardy be bothered to turn up there much of the time."

But he added: "I found the media's response - and particularly the response of the television industry - to the Blair challenge pretty depressing. Hardly anyone engaged with the substance of the criticisms - of our triviality, our short-sightedness, our preoccupation with conflict."