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Edinburgh Festival 99 Friday, 27 August, 1999, 21:41 GMT 22:41 UK
Public service broadcasting 'dying' - ITV boss
Richard Eyre: "BBC must forget about chasing audience share."
Public service broadcasting has only a limited shelf life and "will soon be dead", ITV chief Richard Eyre has said.

Edinburgh Festival 1999
Mr Eyre said the BBC should concentrate on "public interest" broadcasting instead.

Speaking at the annual MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, he said that with the increasing number of new channels it would be impossible to continue with the present system of TV regulation.

Mr Eyre said regulators will be unable to keep up with broadcasting sources
"Public service broadcasting will soon be dead because it relies on regulators who will, in time, no longer be able to do a comprehensive job, because the vast number of sources of broadcast information will be impossible to monitor."

Mr Eyre said the idea of educating viewers as a public service was one "that belongs to yesterday".

"Free school milk doesn't work when the kids go and buy Coca-Cola because it's available and they prefer it and they can afford it. Yet this is the foundation of public service broadcasting."

'Caring passionately'

However, he said the growth of multi channel TV, interactive services and new multimedia technologies did not herald an end to quality television.

He said the BBC should forget about chasing audience share and concentrate on quality programmes.

"The BBC must be held to deliver the things that the commercial sector cannot.

"To do this they really must forget about chasing audience share and lead a path by caring passionately about the provision of something spectacularly good.

"It means that it will have to engage in the massively creatively ambitious, risk-taking, very large-scale programme enterprises like Life of Birds that only it will do."

Role model

A BBC spokesman said: "We share Richard Eyre's view that it is the job of the BBC to provide high quality, distinctive programming that reflects all the interests of the British public and is valued by licence fee payers."

He added that the BBC was "happy to accept the challenge to be the role model for the industry".

Commercial broadcasters were incensed recently when an independent committee appointed by the government recommended that a top-up fee of 24 should be introduced to fund digital services.

While the BBC argued the proposed additional levy would not be enough to fund its digital ambitions, its rivals dubbed it a "poll tax" and insisted it would limit take-up of digital television.

Previous MacTaggart lectures have heard similar themes from independent television producers. Last year Peter Bazalgette suggested viewers and not regulators should decide what is shown.

Rupert Murdoch in The Simpsons: Matt Groening will be at the festival
The television festival runs only for the weekend and is essentially an industry event, during which the venue for broadcasting executives' navel-gazing switches from London to Edinburgh.

Other key debates at the festival include a discussion on the effect abandoning the News at Ten has had on ITV and a session looking at the future of the BBC.

Another event will debate how easy it is for hoaxers to trick their way on to television and a panel will debate whether there is too much sex on the small screen.

No single event is expected to match the publicity surrounding the appearance of Louise Woodward, the former nanny convicted of killing a child in her care, last year.

But interviews with Simpsons creator Matt Groening and comedian Steve Coogan will be the biggest draws for celebrity spotters.

Links to more Edinburgh Festival 99 stories are at the foot of the page.

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