Potter tells BBC chiefs to go: David Lister reports from the Edinburgh Television Festival on calls for resignations

IT WAS a treat to watch. Dennis Potter, maverick television dramatist, brought the unpredictability of real life to the clinical world of TV yesterday as he punctured a debate with calls for the resignation of John Birt and Marmaduke Hussey, BBC director-general and chairman, and threatened to leave the debate himself.

The debate, some of which will be shown on Channel 4 tonight, was examining the issues raised by Potter's controversial lecture which opened the Edinburgh Television Festival on Friday. He had argued that the Birt/Hussey regime had led to demoralisation, hatred and bitterness.

But just as the debate was starting, Potter tested the cool of Sheena MacDonald, the television presenter, who was in the chair, turning to her as she introduced the session, saying: 'For God's sake get on with it. I have to say I don't feel very well this morning.'

The author of The Singing Detective and Pennies from Heaven, who has a skin disease, went on: 'My skin is getting flaky and my face might become like a Hammer horror film. It's up-chuck time.' Then as Ms MacDonald asked for a pause as the cameras got into position, he snapped: 'This is bloody incompetent.'

Asked about his denunciation of the BBC, he said: 'I did the whole damn thing on Friday . . . I don't want to go through it all again.'

Potter said the BBC management had caved in before the Government. 'People at the BBC are unhappy, confused and frightened. Hussey has to go. Birt has to go. I want someone at the BBC to stand up to the Government and say 'Make us. We'll take you on. You're a temporary political movement,' instead of standing up, hands in the air.'

In an increasingly heated debate Will Wyatt, managing director of BBC network television, said it was fantasy to think you could raise two fingers to the rest of the world, that the Government had legislated that 25 per cent of BBC programmes now had to be made by independent producers, that savings had to be made and that Potter was giving out 'a lot of abuse and no coherent argument'.

Earlier, Bob Phillis, BBC deputy director-general, implored staff to make their criticisms in private. He said the continual public knocking of the BBC was damaging it as it fought to retain the value of the licence fee and to have its charter renewed.

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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: New Business Client Manager - OTE £35,000

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global technology company ...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager - Telecoms - OTE £23,000

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has bec...

Recruitment Genius: Front of House Team Member

£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This strategic outsourcing and energy se...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an I...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen