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Thursday, 15 April, 1999, 18:01 GMT 19:01 UK
BBC defends drama output
hornblower
Hornblower: An ITV drama - made thanks to BBC competition?
The BBC has defended itself against calls for the corporation to cut down on its drama and entertainment programming.

The government is reviewing the way the corporation is funded, and it is facing calls to replace the corporation's board of governors with an independent regulator to oversee the BBC's output.

Before Easter, the ITV companies suggested a separate regulator for the BBC in their submission to the review.

ITV and all other commercial services are already independently regulated by the Independent Television Commission.

But the BBC's director of policy and planning, Patricia Hodgson, said: "As a BBC executive, I can tell you that reporting monthly to our board is a much more rigorous procedure than any number of outside bodies.

"The board hires you, sets your salary and fires you. That tends to concentrate the mind.

Removing drama 'a mistake'

tv gallery
ITV companies want the BBC to be independently regulated
"Remove or distance the board with its particular powers, and you reduce the most effective balance yet invented to the power of those with access to the airwaves. You also remove the most important guarantee of BBC independence."

ITV has also called for the BBC to offer less drama and entertainment, but Ms Hodgson said: "It would be a mistake as much for our competitors as for the audience.

"The audience would suffer directly - no more Jonathan Creek, Holiday, Casualty, Airport, Alan Partridge, The Royle Family.

"But they would suffer indirectly too. Do we really believe that ITV would have made Hornblower if the BBC hadn't shown the way?

"Or that first class commercial output like science and documentaries, current affairs or alternative comedy would so often find their place on ITV and Channel 4 if the BBC didn't condition the market?"

Ms Hodgson's defence of the BBC - at the Voice of the Viewer and Listener conference in Cambridge - comes as the corporation searches for a new director general to replace Sir John Birt, who steps down in April 2000.

The debate over the BBC's funding continued earlier this week when Talk Radio boss Kelvin MacKenzie called for Radio 5 Live to be privatised. He feels the BBC network is unfair competition for his own station.

See also:

26 Jan 99 | Entertainment
BBC plans sponsorship fight
16 Mar 99 | Entertainment
Dimbleby joins BBC attacks
24 Feb 99 | Entertainment
BBC chief defends Vanessa show
29 Mar 99 | UK Politics
BBC attacked for 'gobbledegook managers'
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