BBC Should 'Stop Ratings-Chasing', Says Resident Rottweiler

27 August 2007

EDINURGH, Scotland: Aftershocks from recent revelations that the BBC rigged phone-in TV programmes and misleadingly edited documentary footage of Britain's monarch continue to reverberate around the nation's TV parish pump.

They came to a head at Friday night's Edinburgh International Television Festival when Jeremy Paxman (pictured), the BBC's resident Rottweiler, bit the hand that feeds him.

A journalist and historian of note, he is best known for savaging politicians on-air. On Friday, he turned on his bosses.

Delivering the annual keynote MacTaggart Lecture, he warned the assembled media luvvies that a summer of scandals had led to the industry undergoing a "catastrophic loss of nerve".

He called on the BBC hierarchy to eschew ratings-chasing and instead deliver a statement of "greater purpose, or moral drive" for television.

"We've had the preposterous spectacle of some of the most senior figures in broadcasting running around like maiden aunts who've walked in on some teenage party, affecting shock and disbelief at what they've heard," he said.

He also spoke out against the BBC's current budget strategy, known in the industry as "salami slicing", in which every channel and programme undergoes a limited cut in its budget to try to save £2 billion over the next six years.

Paxman's seeds did not fall on entirely fallow ground. Following his broadside, senior BBC executives agreed to meet in September with their opposite numbers at Channel 4 and ITV to agree a joint response to the crisis of trust in the industry.

On the following day, The Daily Telegraph performed a service to those who care about truth and impartiality in UK television by publishing the full text of Paxman's speech. It can be downloaded here.

Data sourced from multiple origins; additional content by WARC staff