EastEnders star Ross Kemp: I noticed the BBC’s financial squeeze when I returned to film Peggy Mitchell’s death

The EastEnders star says times are tough on Albert Square: "I have noticed there were definitely cutbacks. There have been cutbacks at the BBC”

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Soap star turned Sky documentary maker Ross Kemp has said that he noticed the impact of cuts to the BBC when he returned to film scenes for EastEnders.

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Kemp, who plays Grant Mitchell in the soap, returned recently to the Walford set to spend three days filming scenes for the demise of his on-screen mother Peggy (Barbara Windsor). While there, he says that he noticed that budgets had been squeezed since he left the soap in 2006.

“I went recently back to EastEnders,” Kemp told RadioTimes.com. “I was only there for a short period of time. I have noticed there were definitely cutbacks. There have been cutbacks at the BBC.

“Whether they are telling on screen or not I am not the one to say, but you know with the hours and the crew and so on there have definitely been cutbacks.”

The BBC has seen the licence fee frozen since the last charter, meaning a real terms decrease in revenue every year when set against inflation since 2007.

The actor was speaking at an event in Westminster today organised by Tory Peer Lord Fowler to lobby the Government before the publication of its White Paper on the Corporation’s future.

Speaking about the challenges faced by the BBC, Kemp said, “It doesn’t come from [culture secretary] John Whittingdale, it comes from [Prime Minister, David] Cameron, it comes from the top. The BBC is a benchmark for quality the world over. The BBC has always been under attack from governments, but this seems to be the biggest attack it has faced.”

He added that the BBC offered a valuable resource to British TV behind the screen, training a range of people involved in TV production such as designers and technicians.

“The training is world class, it’s a benchmark. I worked for the BBC for ten years, and yes, it has its problems with bureaucracy and all that. It has had its issues. But if you look at what’s being produced, it’s world class.

“I think a lot more people should become more active for the BBC. If it wasn’t for the BBC, for a lot of people, they wouldn’t be where they are today.”

He said governments down the years have often been hostile to the BBC “because it tells the truth” but added that he didn’t believe there is an anti-BBC agenda at rival broadcasters.

“I am at Sky, I work for Sky, I am very happy to work for Sky, but a lot of people I work with at Sky started off at the BBC. I think a state-controlled BBC would be bad for all broadcasters. And there is enough room in the market for all of us.”

At the event, Tory Peer Lord Fowler introduced a draft Bill which he and fellow Peer Lord Alli and Lord Lester plan to put to the House of Lords if the Government refuse to guarantee BBC independence from government politics in the White Paper.

The Lords’ draft Bill aims to put into statute a guaranteed independence of the BBC from government “in all matters concerning its output, the times and manner in which its output is supplied, and the governance and management of its affairs”.

“The BBC’s reputation rests on it being free of government interference,” Lord Fowler said today.

Actor Kemp said he supported the move: “If they get the Bill through they have got to listen to us. A lot of people are probably not aware of the impact it will have. The idea that politicians will schedule programmes, and they have the deciding vote of what happens at the BBC, runs contrary to everything the BBC has been and is. Its editorial independence is world-renowned.

“If you go round the world like I am fortunate enough to do, people in many countries won’t listen to things that happen on their state radio; they will listen to the World Service.

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“The licence fee shouldn’t be snatched by government and relocated. It’s for us. It’s a public service broadcaster. It’s not a state broadcaster. I can’t think of anything more British than the BBC.”