Bragg fears decline in quality of British TV

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The Independent Online
MELVYN BRAGG warned yesterday that the break-up of British television into a system of 'telly for snobs and telly for slobs' is fast approaching.

He said there was an increasingly two-tier system of broadcasting where viewers without satellite or cable were being denied access to programmes. This was undermining the future of 'the greatest comprehensive electronic newspaper the world has ever seen', Mr Bragg said.

'The more you pay for, the more you will get - and this will be the beginning of a tremendous enterprise in the general democratic availability of the best to the most.'

He said television broadcast a huge breadth of material, from drama and documentaries to comedy and game shows. 'This, combined with the willingness of the best writers to write for British television, has been its character. It has been a kind of national service of the mind and the imagination, with minimal prescription charges. I fear that is on the way out. It is a great shame, and it can be prevented.'

Speaking at the launch of the new season of ITV's arts programme, The South Bank Show, made by LWT, Mr Bragg called on Stephen Dorrell, Secretary of State for National Heritage, to make the matter his prime concern. 'Look at sport. The best of it is already cut off from millions of fans because they cannot afford it,' he said. 'The same will happen in other specialised areas, with the great nature films, with the classiest serials and dramas, even with arts programmes.'

Britain's biggest independent television company, Carlton UK Television, which serves 20 million people in the Midlands and London, announced 180 job losses yesterday. The move follows a restructuring after Carlton's takeover earlier this year of Central.