Creative giants like Doctor Who and Sherlock’s Steven Moffat should help decide the BBC’s future says Armando Iannucci

The Thick of It and Veep creator uses the MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival to demand that important writers and showrunners be consulted more when deciding policy

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Armando Iannucci believes that people like Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat should be consulted more by the Government when deciding broadcasting policy and the future of the BBC.

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Iannucci used the James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival to castigate the Government for only consulting executives at the very top of the TV food chain when deciding policy and not people like Moffat who actually make programmes.

He said in his lecture, called We’re All in this Together, that the Government panel set up to consider the BBC’s future is too narrow.

As RadioTimes.com reported in July, the body comprises eight broadcasting grandees including former Channel 5 chief executive Dawn Airey who has called in the past for the BBC licence fee to be cut and for the Corporation to charge for its online content.

Other figures on the panel including Dame Colette Bowe, a former chairwoman of the regulator Ofcom who last year suggested that BBC funding should be shared with other broadcasters.

Iannucci said of the group: “When I see the panel of experts who’ve been asked by the Culture Secretary to take a root and branch look at the BBC, I don’t see anyone who is a part of a cast and crew list.  

“I see executives, media owners, industry gurus, all talented people; but not a single person who’s made a classic and enduring television show, not a presenter, a writer, director or creative producer, no Moffat or [writer, Sally] Wainwright or [producer, Jimmy] Mulville or Mercurio, nor do I see anyone from our world-class post-production industry or from design or drama, no-one from the enormous world-beating service of day-to-day production, to give their views, to offload their expertise on the difficulties and the joys and the challenges of making world standard public service broadcasting. 

“Oh, and no viewers too. Just people from the executive branch of television. It’s like a car company was looking into what car it should make next, but only spoke to the managers and not to any of the engineers. Or drivers.  You cannot have a meaningful root and branch review of television, if you’re only going to deal with one branch.” 

Iannucci joked that creative are not consulted because “they do not wear a tie” but added in a more serious vein: “Are they more wary of us because we deal with intangible stuff, made up stories, unquantifiable and unpredictable entertainments that make us interesting but not really serious, the sort of person it’s good to be photographed chatting to at a Thank You Reception for the Arts, rather than properly engaging with at a boardroom meeting deciding how a crucial segment of the arts should be run?

“Maybe that’s why executives, who have staff and offices and budgets and ties, get invited onto committees every year, while creatives are brought along for canapés every five.

“Talk to us. No-one comes into contact more regularly with the hard economics of making a budget work than a production team. Every time I make a show, I’m a small businessman, responsible for hundreds of employees, in charge of a budget of millions of pounds. And of course if the project isn’t successful, the work won’t come back.  In America, the key production personnel, the writers, the First AD, senior researchers, are credited as producers. They’re rewarded for their key creative input. On my HBO show “Veep,” which we shot in Baltimore, we had a set visit from the state Governor, who came to thank us for the work we were bringing to Maryland. Our true, essential, role in the business of making good television was acknowledged.

“But believe me, saying tonight “We’re All in This Together’, I’m not being ironic. Playful, maybe, but deadly serious. British television needs to be at its strongest: with a big global fight ahead, we need to consolidate all our talent and expertise.”

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You can see Steven Moffatt with Peter Capaldi talking about running Doctor Who at the Radio Times Festival on Friday 26th September at Hampton Court in London. Book tickets now…