BBC executives 'asked stars to sign open letter' defending corporation to David Cameron

Radio 1 DJ Annie Nightingale and Monty Python star Michael Palin have both said BBC executives asked them to sign the open letter

A letter signed by dozens of celebrities urging the Prime Minister to protect the BBC was organised by the corporation’s senior executives, Michael Palin has said.

The open letter to David Cameron warned that “a diminished BBC would simply mean a diminished Britain.”

“The BBC is a very precious organisation,” they wrote. “Like all organisations, it has its faults but it is overwhelmingly a creative force for good.”

The Monty Python actor claimed that Danny Cohen, the BBC’s Director of Television, asked him to put his name to the letter.

Palin told BBC2’s Victoria Derbyshire show: “Danny Cohen rang me up, he just asked ‘Would you sign? The charter is coming up we’re a bit worried the BBC would become smaller and less significant.’”

“I didn’t think that was a very good idea that it should become that much smaller or that it should be sort of chipped away at by special interest groups. Let’s keep the BBC doing what it does best, which is an enormous amount of work.”

Palin’s comments come after The Times reported that BBC Radio 1 DJ Annie Nightingale said that the station’s controller, Ben Cooper, asked her to become a signatory.

 

“I bumped into Ben a couple of days ago. He said Danny Cohen [the director of BBC television] was putting this letter together and said, ‘Would you like to be included?’ I said, ‘Yeah’. I understood vaguely what it would say. I didn’t read the letter before it went out," she said.

Other high-profile figures to sign the letter included James Bond actor Daniel Craig, Dame Judy Dench and David Attenborough.

The BBC  told The Independent of the claims: "These are people who clearly want to speak up for the BBC. The letter is from the signatories. It speaks for itself. They have their own strong views."