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Richard Wilson worried Government will force BBC to stop making popular shows

Published 09/05/2016

Richard Wilson has voiced his concerns over the Government's plans for the BBC
Richard Wilson has voiced his concerns over the Government's plans for the BBC

One Foot In The Grave star Richard Wilson is worried the Government will force the BBC to stop making popular shows.

The 79-year-old actor, whose character Victor Meldrew is known for his catchphrase "I don't believe it", also said that he can understand why stars would be put off if they had to disclose earnings.

Reports suggest Culture Secretary John Whittingdale plans to force the BBC to publish how much it pays top talent earning more than £150,000 and impose scheduling restrictions to stop it showing hit programmes such as Strictly Come Dancing at prime time, going head to head with commercial broadcasters.

"I think there's always been a policy that you don't talk about your earnings and I can understand that that might drive some people away," Wilson said.

Asked if he would be comfortable with disclosing what he earns if it was over that amount, he laughed and joked: "I would never get offered that money."

But he added it would not worry him if he was required to reveal earnings.

Asked why he thinks it would bother others, Wilson said it is a case of independence and avoiding a scenario whereby everyone is making comparisons with their peers.

Speaking to reporters at an event in Westminster, he said: "The press want to know what people make, and we don't want them to know what we make, in a sense. It's not so much the press that we're worried about, it's about fellow actors.

"We want to hang on to our independence, although I think actors, in a way, should talk about what they earn together. But I think that's what it is, there's a fear that if he or she's getting that much why am I not getting it?"

He added: "I'm more worried about trying to stop them making popular programmes ... I watch Strictly Come Dancing, God help me. The very first one, I was asked."

Asked why he turned it down, Wilson said: "Oh, because it just filled me with dread.

"I think I said in an interview somewhere I enjoyed dancing at parties, which I did.

"I think in my heyday, my young days, I might have been quite a good dancer."

On "popular" programmes, the actor said: "Where do you draw the line? What's popular and what's not?"

The White Paper could reportedly be published as soon as Thursday and will set out a tougher new regime as part of a proposed deal to grant a new royal charter to safeguard the service for another 11 years.

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