Page last updated at 08:19 GMT, Thursday, 1 May 2008 09:19 UK

Attenborough criticises BBC shows

Sir David Attenborough
Sir David has worked for the BBC for his entire broadcasting career

Sir David Attenborough, one of the BBC's longest-serving presenters, has criticised the broadcaster for allowing lifestyle shows to "run rampant".

"Do we really require so many gardening programmes, makeover programmes or celebrity chefs?" he asked.

Sir David said it was "a scandal" that there was "no place for continuing series of programmes about science or serious music or in-depth interviews".

The presenter was giving a speech about public service broadcasting in London.

He singled out the BBC's long-running science show Tomorrow's World as a "very inventive programme", and said the demise of such strands was "sad".

However, the Life on Earth and Blue Planet presenter paid tribute to the "pioneering" work of the BBC's natural history unit, based in Bristol.

"It is a prime example of what public service broadcasting can achieve," he said.

'Pariahs'

Sir David Attenborough and a lizard
Sir David's most recent wildlife series was Life In Cold Blood
Sir David was controller of BBC Two for four years until 1969, before spending three years as director of programmes across both BBC One and BBC Two.

He said a publicly-funded broadcaster should "cater for the broadest possible range of interests" and measure success "not only by its audience size but by the range of its schedule".

At its best, he acknowledged the BBC achieved these aims.

"But I have to say that there are moments when I wonder," he added.

"There are times when both BBC One and BBC Two, intoxicated by the sudden popularity of a programme genre, have allowed that genre to proliferate and run rampant through the schedules, with the result that other kinds of programmes are not placed - simply because of lack of space."

He argues that niche channels haven't done too well for audiences
BBC Parliament controller Peter Knowles

Sir David also addressed Ofcom's recent suggestion that the BBC's licence fee could be shared with commercial broadcasters to help pay for public service programmes such as news and children's programmes.

He said the idea had merit, but that regulation would be needed to ensure that such programmes would not be pushed out of peak-time.

"They become the schedule's pariahs, retained under sufferance, tucked away, unloved, where they do least harm to the network's income," he added.

The wildlife presenter's lecture was part of a series organised by the BBC to debate Ofcom's review of public service broadcasting.

Comedian Stephen Fry and former Observer editor Will Hutton will also deliver their personal views on the issue in coming weeks.



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