Television lacks `intellectual ambition', says Bragg

MELVYN BRAGG, the presenter of the South Bank Show, joined the queue of people lining up to attack low standards in television yesterday, declaring that the medium suffered from "a lack of intellectual ambition".

Lord Bragg, who is also the controller of LWT's arts department, criticised the amount of "laddish TV that has turned into loutish TV" which keeps the discussion of ideas out of television schedules.

His attack follows weeks of complaints by television figures about declining standards. Last week, John Humphrys, the former BBC television news reader who now presents Radio 4's Today programme, declared that news and current affairs programmes were losing their bite.

Before him, Noel Edmonds, the man who brought the country Noel's House Party and Mr Blobby, complained that the BBC's standards were falling because of spending cuts.

Lord Bragg, whose new South Bank series has programmes on the actress Joan Collins, the singer Cher and the Lion King musical, denied that the show could be accused of following a similar middle-brow trend as the rest of television. He said: "I am not embarrassed by doing programmes on popular culture. The first show we did 23 years ago was on Paul McCartney. Joan Collins is an iconic figure and we can do Dolly Parton just as interestingly as a programme on Tony Harrison.

"I am talking about a lack of ideas on television. We have a better-educated population than ever before and they have to go to newspapers or Radio 4 to get the discussion of ideas. I love television and I think it should be doing it all, and putting forward programmes about thinking. There is an audience for ideas which would surprise some people. When we started In Our Time on Radio 4 I inherited an audience of 600,000 and now it's at 1.5 million. People are going out and packing into lectures, the book festivals are crowded, but people have this idea that television cannot be a forum for the ideas that are being thrashed around.

"British television is still led by some extremely able people, and yet at times they can seem like thoroughbreds happy to pull milk carts. Am I alone in believing that here as elsewhere Trash TV is welcomed because there are those in the opinion-forming seats who still feel that all TV is trash and all proofs to that absurd theory are welcome?"

Lord Bragg was unveiling LWT's arts and features programmes for the next year, which include a look at the Ten Commandments, a history of the British hit single, and a premiere of Thomas Ades's opera Powder Her Face.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Account Manager

£30 - 38k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a digitally focussed Account Man...

Recruitment Genius: Service Advisor - Automotive

£21000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's leading...

Recruitment Genius: Legal Secretary - Family Law

£21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing professional legal pr...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Java

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This exciting and disruptive co...

Day In a Page

A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935