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The daytime television debate: It's more than cosy chats on the sofa
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The Independent Online
Polly Toynbee's dismissive comments about daytime television are as patronising and insulting to the viewers as they are to the performers and programme-makers concerned. By sweepingly describing it as "Stupidvision", she implies that those who loyally tune into the diverse range of BBC and ITV programmes every day between 9am and 5pm are stupid.

Ms Toynbee's remarks indicate that she doesn't understand the very people who, as she acknowledges, make up the "diverse and intelligent audience" for daytime television. The demands of their tastes and needs have led to an increasingly impressive supply - from incisive factual debates such as Kilroy and The Time, The Place, through social action issues, to inventive factual entertainment like Going for a Song. Even Ms Toynbee has to applaud Can't Cook, Won't Cook, the triumphantly successful Ready Steady Cook, and out-and-out entertainment shows such as ITV's Supermarket Sweep. And, of course, there is news, drama, children's programmes and sport. Daytime television viewers have access to almost every genre of the available output.

To attack daytime television for failing to take a chance with "new ideas, dangerous formats, risky try-outs and crashing disasters" demeans the rights of those that watch it. Are daytime viewers to be treated like guinea pigs. to be played with at will? Experiments must be meritorious. Anyone involved in live television knows the risks inherent in the kind of live phone-in debates and interviews that feature daily on both networks.

A cursory glance through the pages of the same Radio Times that features Ms Toynbee's invective will reveal a great diversity of programme output available throughout every day of the week. And new talent is to be found emerging from all areas of it. How else would new stars such as Dale Winton and Ainsley Harriott have earned their popularity with viewers?

Most puzzling of all, perhaps, is Ms Toynbee's revolutionary suggestion that the public should now have some say in the matter. The BBC carried out an extensive review of its daytime output months ago, drawing upon the opinions of thousands of daytime viewers. The new BBC 1 schedule that emerges in the autumn will be the true test of whether Ms Toynbee's patronising comments are justified.

Rod Natkiel is head of Network Television, BBC Pebble Mill.