But, to cut a long story short, this new slate, along with some of the successes (and failures, of which more later) of the past 18 months on a channel that, in ratings terms, is doing better than any other mainstream terrestrial channel is Moore’s answer to her critics. They include the BBC Trust, which last year chastised BBC1 for being risk-averse and lacking distinctiveness, range and ambition, and the culture secretary John Whittingdale, who said much the same just the other week. Of the BBC Trust critique she says, “I didn’t agree with it then, and I certainly don’t agree with it now.”
So how about the specific criticism of one of her more successful shows, The Voice, described as “a clone” in these very pages by former BBC chairman and one-time controller of BBC1, Michael Grade? Does she give anything to the argument that, unlike Strictly Come Dancing, which feels quintessentially BBC and is home-grown through and through, The Voice is a bought-in (it’s reported to have cost many millions of pounds), derivative format?
“Unless you are saying that the BBC can’t do talent shows at all, the way The Voice is made – its warmth and tone – is BBC in its nature. It is distinctive because of the way the BBC does it. And eight to ten million people rock up to watch Strictly and The Voice, so I know that we’re getting it right.”
While we’re on the subject of The Voice, was she involved in the decision to drop Sir Tom Jones (above) as a judge? Yes. Does she accept that he was badly treated? “No one wanted to upset him, but I have to say it’s in the nature of The Voice. It’s inherent to change the coaches.” But you kept Will.i.am? “I think it was getting the chemistry right, with a new line-up.” Could it have been done differently? “Everybody knows it’s the way the pop industry works… we told Sir Tom as soon as we could.” So that’s a no, too.
But what about the rest of Saturday night? The Casualty 1 National Lottery combination is over 20 years old; Strictly is ten years old, and the search for a new, home-grown entertainment format has yet to pay off. But here again the failure of Tumble and Prized Apart – both big shows invested with high hopes – is presented as evidence of BBC1’s willingness to take risks.
“We took some game-changing risks in Prized Apart. Not everything pays off – it didn’t reach the audience we wanted it to – but we genuinely attempted to do something different. And I’ll go on doing that. Because of the way we are funded, we have the creative freedom to do those things.”