Dramatist rounds on Birt regime

THE management of the BBC came in for a withering attack from the dramatist Dennis Potter when he opened the Edinburgh Television Festival last night.

Potter, the author of Pennies from Heaven and The Singing Detective shown on the BBC said 'bitterness and hatred' had demoralised staff.

'The world has turned upside down,' he said. 'The BBC is under governors who seem incapable of performing the public trust that is invested in them, under a chairman who seems to believe he is heading a private fiefdom, and under a chief executive (Director-General, John Birt) who must somehow or other have swallowed whole and unsalted the kind of humbug- punctuated pre-privatisation manual which is being forced on British Rail or British Coal.'

However, while Potter's broadside will set much of the agenda for this weekend's festival, it is unlikely that Mr Birt, who will speak today, will be much damaged by it.

Potter's attacks last night were from time to time thrown out of focus as he described Mr Birt as the 'so often so unfairly abused Director-General'.

He said that there were 'legions of troubled and embittered employees at the BBC who can scarcely understand any of the concepts of the new management culture'.

But he was quick to add: 'I will willingly concede that this is partly because they do not want to listen, and there have long been people at the BBC ready to spout about their dedication to public service broadcasting, who think it is an absolute impertinence if they are asked to get out of their beds of a morning.'

He added that back in 1965, far from being a golden age, 'there was a bureaucrat in every cupboard and smugness waiting with a practised simper on the far side of every door'.

Delivering the James MacTaggart lecture at St Cuthbert's church, Potter, whose last series Lipstick on Your Collar was broadcast on Channel 4, said it was time to save 'not the BBC from itself, but public service broadcasting from the BBC'.

He said: 'Why not separate radio from television? Why not let BBC 2 be a separate public service broadcaster?' He added: 'Channel 4, if free from its advertisements, could continue to evolve out of its original, even precious remit, into a passably good model of the kinds of television some of us seek. Michael Grade (chief executive of Channel 4) is becoming by default the new director-general.'

Of Mr Birt and the chairman of governors, Marmaduke Hussey, it was 'impossible not to wonder how on earth those currently and, I hope, temporarily in charge of the BBC could have brought such things to such a miserably demeaning condition'. He said that 'you cannot make a pair of croak-voiced Daleks appear benevolent even if you dress one of them in an Armani suit and call the other Marmaduke'.

Last night Will Wyatt, managing director of BBC Network Television, said that the world of broadcasting had changed and the BBC had to change with it. Change could be painful and 'in that respect we all share Dennis Potter's concerns'.

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?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test