Broadcasting firms 'too dependent'

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The Independent Online
BROADCASTERS are being trapped in an unhealthy culture of dependency which has grown up between them and the Government in the past five years, Greg Dyke, the former chief executive of LWT and ex-chairman of the ITV Association said last night.

Delivering the James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh television festival, Mr Dyke told delegates the result of the dependency was that it gave the Government 'far too much power in the relationship' and tempted the companies to compromise their programming responsibilities. 'This, I would suggest is a potential threat to a politically free broadcasting system.'

He said the state of dependency extended potentially to Channel 4, which is lobbying to end the payments it makes to ITV. It also extended to the BBC which, despite a favourable White Paper, is concerned to keep its transmission system from privatisation.

'Let's recognise what the possible threat is. It will take a very brave ITV broadcaster to make or broadcast a controversial programme about the Government, if by doing so it believes it is seriously threatening its chance of persuading the Government to change a piece of legislation.'

He also warned that accountants were in command over programme-makers as far as commercial broadcasting was concerned. 'I think this could have serious implications in the area of programming generally, and current affairs journalism in particular.'

Quoting Grace Wyndham Goldie, the BBC executive instrumental in setting up BBC current affairs, Mr Dyke said: ' 'Never more than in broadcasting, is the price of freedom eternal vigilance.' . . . Our opportunity is that we have two years before the next general election to persuade all parties . . . that the freedom and independence of broadcasters matters.'