Stephen Frears denounces “atrocious” government attacks on the BBC

The director of Philomena and new Lance Armstrong film The Program says the government wants to “demolish” a corporation respected around the world

Bafta-winning director Stephen Frears has launched a staunch defence of the BBC, calling the government’s review of the BBC’s size and output a ‘slow and nasty’ destruction of the organisation.


“I think it’s atrocious,” the director of Philomena and The Queen told “I was working there (in his early career) when it was a profession for gentlemen, really. And it was very eccentric and very interesting, and the work was full of extremely interesting people.

“The government are going for it out of some Thatcherite memory, because they imagine that the BBC is some sort of communist organisation, which it clearly isn’t. And because I’m also a liberal, the BBC is part of the liberal establishment. I have those same values, and they want to demolish them.”

Frears with The Program actor Ben Foster

Frears’ comments come in the wake of a green paper from Culture secretary John Whittingdale earlier this year, which called for a fundamental review of what the BBC does and the way it is funded, questioning whether the Corporation should continue to strive to be “all things to all people”.

Frears went on: “It seem quite consistent with an ideological government that they would want to destroy a liberal organisation. It seems to me rather sad. A lot of people all over the world support the BBC and believe in it.

“Of course they do idiotic things and they drive you up the wall, but I’d support them. Mrs Thatcher tried to abolish it, and we defeated her. This is slower and nastier.”

Lying, bulling Lance

Frears has spent roughly three years making a biopic of controversial Tour de France cheat Lance Armstrong, focussing on the cyclist and charity founder’s use of performance-enhancing drugs and subsequent attempts to coerce others into keeping his secrets.

“Listen, I don’t even know that I disapprove of taking drugs,” Frears said. “It’s the lying and the bullying, the destroying people’s lives.

“I would only want to meet him if I’m allowed to say to him ‘For God’s sake get a good analyst and grow up’. If I’m allowed to say that I’m happy to meet him, but I don’t think he’d like to hear those words.”

He concluded: “I think it’s a good story, and I wanted people to have a good time. I like good crime films. A heist, yeah, I think it was a heist.”


The Program is in cinemas now