Armando Iannucci: the BBC should stop seeing profit-making as “sordid”

Veep showrunner calls on the Corporation to enter the world of commercial competition more robustly to guarantee its survival

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Armando Iannucci has called on the BBC to make more money out of its shows and stop feeling that profit making is “sordid”.

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Speaking today following last night’s MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival last night, the comedy writer and producer said that Britain needs a “more global television industry” and suggested that the BBC should be allowed to make more money out of its programmes. 

“Speaking to people at the BBC there’s a tremendous difficulty people have talking about the making money aspect [of television].

“They feel it’s sordid or they worry of they talk about making money abroad, the Mail or the Telegraph will say why are they trying to make money.”

He said that the Government’s current review into the future of the BBC should give the BBC more commercial freedom to exploit its programmes for revenue. He added that the BBC should even be able to make shows for rival broadcasters like ITV or Channel 4.

Currently the BBC’s commercial arm BBC Worldwide returned £173.8m in 2013/14 back to the Corporation from its profits selling BBC programmes and merchandise – a figure Iannucci thinks should be higher.

He also suggested that the BBC could charge for some use of the iPlayer or for people to access it’s rich archive. And he renewed his attack on the Government for the way it has framed an anti-BBC debate in its publication of its Green Paper on the future of the BBC.

“Media and communications represent 8% of the country’s GDP. It’s very important. It needs to be taken seriously. When talking about these issues you need to be carefully with your wording.”

Iannucci added that BBC traditionally engaged in spasmodic period of around three years when it chases ratings – and then produces more “modest fare” when it is criticised for this.

During the question and answer session, Philippa Giles the award winning producer of dramas such as Luther starring Idris Elba and Silent Witness, suggested that that BBC needed it help itself and be more honest about its “crap” army of middle managers.

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Giles, who left the Corporation in January, said:  “The middle management of the BBC is crap and has always been crap and there’s something we could always do about it.”