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Last Updated: Friday, 26 August 2005, 09:37 GMT 10:37 UK
Ex-BBC boss to launch TV festival
Lord Birt
Lord Birt is expected to discuss the future of the BBC in his lecture
Former BBC director general Lord Birt will open the Edinburgh Television Festival on Friday by delivering the prestigious MacTaggart lecture.

Held in the city's McEwan Hall, the annual lecture is known for producing controversial, agenda-setting speeches.

Festival advisory chairman Tom Hincks said Lord Birt - director general from 1992 to 2000 - was a "perfect choice".

He said Lord Birt was never far from controversy and would provide "a unique insight" into broadcasting's future.

Since becoming a life peer in 2000, Lord Birt has been a strategic advisor to Tony Blair but has remained active in the debate about the BBC.

He is believed to have backed a plan to give licence fee money to other broadcasters if the BBC was not fulfilling its public service role.

And in the wake of the Hutton report, he said "grievous errors" had damaged the corporation.

Major names

Inaugurated in 1976 in memory of writer and director James MacTaggart, the lecture is regularly delivered by major names in broadcasting.

Past speakers include Rupert Murdoch, Michael Grade, Ted Turner and current BBC director general Mark Thompson. John Humphrys delivered last year's speech.

The event forms part of three days of discussions, debates and events covering all aspects of the broadcasting industry.

Also on Friday, Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly hosted a festival edition of Strictly Come Dancing with such industry professionals as ex-BBC One controller Lorraine Heggessey taking part.

Channel 4's chief executive Andy Duncan, BBC Two controller Roly Keating and Stuart Murphy of BBC Three are also facing questions during sessions on the first day.

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