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
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
News
i100
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: General Manager

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of global logisti...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager - £70,000 OTE

£35000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Manager (Vice President...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Marketing Executive i...

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable