BBC chief stands by troubled 'Eldorado'

SIR MICHAEL Checkland, the Director-General of the BBC, said yesterday that the troubled soap Eldorado, would not be scrapped, contradicting reports in Sunday newspapers.

He said: 'Eldorado is an important element in our autumn schedule.' He dismissed as 'wild speculation' reports that the corporation was planning to axe 8,000 of its 25,000 jobs. He also dismissed rumours about the future of key BBC executives, whose jobs are thought to be in danger once John Birt takes over in March.

Privately, however, senior BBC people are saying that their opening Saturday night autumn schedule is dreadful because it combines Bruce Forsyth with a new Bobby Davro people show, Public Enemy Number One.

The degree to which the BBC is planning to move back towards becoming a public service broadcaster was revealed last Thursday, when Broadcast magazine, the industry's trade paper, gave details of the BBC's planned response to the Government's consultation paper on the BBC. It suggested that the BBC is giving up gameshows with money prizes and people shows which make fun of contestants and celebrities and any format where the BBC has nothing original to contribute.

Yesterday, a senior BBC programme-maker responsible for a string of popular hits, said he had been plunged into 'deep gloom' over the policy change, which he described as 'the death knell' of the BBC. 'If you wish to move people towards higher things you need popular programmes to draw them in - you need a mix,' he said.