Former Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies has given up hope that the BBC can be saved and believes it will be a subscriber service in ten years’ time.
Speaking at the Radio Times Festival, the writer said that the British public are being sold a “lie” about the appeal of subscription television services like HBO and Showtime, yet he thinks that this is what the Tory government wants the BBC to become.
“We are standing on a precipice where the BBC is about to fall into a ravine,” he said in a wide-ranging and impassioned session chaired by Radio Times TV editor Alison Graham.
“My take on it is that we have lost. I absolutely think that. The problem is people say you can fight for the BBC but there is no fight. You can [only] submit some opinions to the green paper.
“John Whittingdale, the culture secretary went to Edinburgh [Television Festival] and said we are not going to privatise Channel 4 and lied to the country because today we saw that yes, they are looking to privatise Channel 4.
“They are dead set against the BBC. It’s just a fact. They are being honest Tories. Tories believe in a free market against the state and they think this the way to do it. They are not lying, they are being very true to themselves.”
Davies said the BBC was so huge that it couldn’t be defended against all charges by its supporters which he believes is crippling the argument for its survival.
“Defending the BBC, you get stuck. It is so huge [that] it is like defending a city. There are some corners of London you can’t defend.
“I honestly think this fight has been lost and we are heading towards some sort of subscriber service.
“People say that we should have HBO, the finest broadcaster in the world… It gives you nothing.
“The truth of it is, you have got seven channels. You pay $15 a month, which equals £118 a year, a bit less than the licence fee. But what you get is no news, no soap opera, no weather, no radio stations. Nothing like that.
“People talk about Game of Thrones, well, that’s ten weeks a year. We are being led to a subscriber service, which you are being told is marvellous and it’s a lie. A couple of hours of good dramas a week and nothing else. That, in ten years’ time is what they will demand the BBC becomes and it is a disgrace.”
Davies made his name with the groundbreaking comedy-drama Queer as Folk in 1999, which depicted gay relationships, and he was instrumental in bringing Doctor Who back to the BBC in 2005. His last drama was Cucumber for Channel 4 earlier this year.
His 90-minute adaptation of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the BBC, starring Maxine Peake and Matt Lucas, begins filming in Cardiff next week.