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Wednesday, 6 March, 2002, 11:57 GMT
BBC should 'focus on quality'
Vanessa Feltz (centre) was one of the stars on Celebrity Sleepover
Vanessa Feltz (centre) appeared on Celebrity Sleepover
The BBC should not dumb down but produce more quality programmes, the head of a TV watchdog has said.

Patricia Hodgson, chief executive of the Independent Television Commission (ITC), which does not regulate the BBC, wants the corporation to keep making distinctive and original programming.


Beating ITV with Blue Planet is a triumph. Beating ITV with Celebrity Sleepover is a tragedy

Patricia Hodgson, ITC
Ms Hodgson said shows like documentary series The Blue Planet had a valuable place on the channel.

But she hit out at programmes like Celebrity Sleepover, in which TV stars like Vanessa Feltz spend a night staying at the home of a member of the public.

She told the Royal Television Society's annual Fleming lecture that the BBC needed to be "properly focused and funded" but that it should continue to make popular shows.

Ms Hodgson said: "It should accept the challenge to make the market; that is, to make it different from what it would be if the BBC didn't exist.

"Beating ITV with Blue Planet is a triumph. Beating ITV with Celebrity Sleepover is a tragedy."

Sir Trevor McDonald hosts ITN bulletins
Sir Trevor McDonald hosts ITN bulletins
Ms Hodgson also wants TV channels to help boost the image of politics to viewers.

The BBC recently announced that it was planning a major revamp of its coverage in a bid to make it more popular with younger viewers.

A recent report by the ITC showed that 70% of the public had little or no interest in the television coverage during the 2001 general election, compared with 56% in 1997.

Ms Hodgson said: "Somehow we've managed to unhook politics, in the public mind, from its subject matter.

She claimed it was the "biggest challenge" facing broadcasters over the next ten years.

The cut in funding by Independent Television News (ITN), which supplies ITV and Channel 5 with their bulletins, was also under the ITC microscope, said Ms Hodgson.

Alternatives

ITN were involved in a contract battle with a consortium, including Sky News, to provide ITV with its news.

It paid 45m for the six-year deal, but was forced to axe 100 jobs and cut costs by 10m.

Ms Hodgson said: "Not even the BBC's outstanding news machine can be relied on to reflect every sensitivity or to get the balance right every time.

"Sky offers an excellent alternative, drawing on the global resources of News International. But, in a complex world, are two news agendas really enough?"

The main role of the ITC is as a watchdog for commercial TV in the UK by regulating and licensing it.

It aims to "look after viewers' interests" by setting and maintaining the standards for programmes, advertising and technical quality.

Although it has no power to vet programmes or issue directions about scheduling, it can insist that if a show is found to have breached its code, it cannot be re-screened in the same format.

See also:

10 Feb 02 | TV and Radio
Dyke not 'dumbing down' BBC
22 Nov 01 | TV and Radio
ITN axes 133 jobs
11 Apr 01 | TV and Radio
Channel 5 news move thwarted
26 Mar 01 | TV and Radio
ITV under fire from watchdog
24 Apr 01 | TV and Radio
Campaigners urge TV turn-off
30 Jul 01 | TV and Radio
What does the ITC do?
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