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Doctor Who and Sherlock writer Moffat backs 'madly varied' BBC

Published 29/08/2015

Steven Moffat has previously hit out at the Government's plans for the BBC
Steven Moffat has previously hit out at the Government's plans for the BBC

The man behind some of the BBC's biggest shows, including Sherlock and Doctor Who, has asked people to imagine what the world would be like without the "insane variety" of the BBC.

TV writer Steven Moffat again voiced his support for the corporation and pointed towards Doctor Who, The Great British Bake Off and "everything David Attenborough's ever done" as examples of how varied BBC shows are.

He told an audience at the Edinburgh International Television Festival: "There is no other broadcaster so madly varied and so genuinely mad. Can you imagine what the world would be like without all of that insane variety?"

He added: "I think a very, very small number of people think the BBC is a bad idea, and a huge number of people think the BBC is a wonderful idea.

"Sadly, the small number of people are all in Government."

He prompted laughter from the crowd with that last comment and added that it was "slightly unbalanced".

The acclaimed Doctor Who writer said: "Let's be clear, I think it's fair to say there is only one broadcaster in the whole world that would come up with and transmit it, as a good idea, Doctor Who."

Moffat has previously hit out at the Government's plans for the corporation.

He said the BBC was "a beacon of quality" and described the recent green paper as "wretched" and "wrong".

The future of the BBC, its funding, and what it should and should not be doing was much discussed during the festival.

Culture Secretary John Whittingdale rubbished the idea that the corporation is to be dismantled.

"I've never suggested dismantling the BBC," he told the festival crowd.

Director of strategy and digital at the BBC, James Purnell, said the corporation welcomed what Mr Whittingdale said, adding: "I think he's changed the mood around the debate, very much so."

But Chris Bryant, shadow secretary of state for culture, said during a Question Time session at the festival: "John has been appointed specifically to be the nice guy who wanders around conferences and says 'look, it's not going to be so bad, it's all going to be fine'. And James Purnell's bought it. Daft. Ludicrous."

Mr Bryant also accused BBC Director-General Tony Hall of being a "coward" for not challenging Mr Whittingdale.

The Culture Secretary had sparked concern among some supporters of the BBC after saying that a review of its royal charter would look at whether the broadcaster should continue to be "all things to all people" or have a more "precisely targeted" mission.

Meanwhile, writer and director Armando Iannucci said the BBC should look at the possibility of expanding.

He launched a passionate defence of the corporation in his James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture and said British television needs support amid political attacks.

The satirist warned that tampering with the BBC would be "madness", and that politicians - with no expertise in the area - have got the British television industry "completely wrong".

He also suggested the BBC could take pressure off the licence fee by selling shows more aggressively abroad.

Moffat hailed Iannucci's speech as "epic" and said he would "strongly recommend" that people read it.

In a separate session, former Crimewatch presenter Nick Ross said the BBC is "killing itself".

He said the corporation needs to supplement the licence fee with other income.

Ross said he sees an organisation clinging to a system where it will have to "fight" to survive every year or every 10 years, and will only get "more and more diminished".

Also at the festival, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon demanded that Scotland must get a dedicated BBC television channel to counter the often "ill-informed" coverage of London-based journalists who have "totally failed" to cover constitutional change.

As a minimum, Ms Sturgeon called for BBC editors based within Scotland to have greater ability to influence UK reporting, a specific Scottish site for iPlayer programmes, Scottish Parliament oversight for the BBC in Scotland, greater use of Scottish opt-outs, and more powers for the BBC commissioners based in Scotland, during her Alternative MacTaggart lecture.

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