David Dimbleby used his speech at ITV’s National Television Awards to praise the BBC – and he has no regrets.
This year’s Special Recognition Award went to the veteran political presenter, who stepped down as host of Question Time in December 2018.
As the NTAs went out live on ITV, he took his chance to praise the broadcaster’s rival channel as “one of the great national institutions” which is “absolutely essential for our national life.”
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Asked if he’d had any “second thoughts” about delivering an ode to the BBC on a primetime ITV show, Dimbleby told RadioTimes.com backstage: “None at all! None at all.”
He added: “I mean, to see four minutes of my work put on ITV – it’s to dream for, isn’t it? It’ll bring in a new audience.”
The political broadcaster said he was “very proud of the BBC,” explaining: “I know they get a lot of brickbats, but I do think it’s at the heart of British life, the BBC, really.
“And everything else is brilliant, the stuff we’ve seen tonight, the things that go on on Netflix, but the BBC is at the core of British life in a way and touches a nerve I think that other stations, broadcasters, don’t automatically do. Moments of crisis, moments of drama. I think the BBC is really important, so I thought I’d speak out for them.”
Dimbleby also revealed that he has yet to watch his replacement on Question Time, Fiona Bruce – but he does plan to tune in soon.
“I will, I will watch it,” he said. “I won’t watch it obsessively, and I won’t watch it thinking, ‘I wonder how she’s doing,’ I’ll watch it if I think the topics are interesting, or the politicians are interesting.”
The broadcaster also confirmed he would “always” be keen to take part in BBC election night coverage – but that he will not be back as host for the next general election.
Dimbleby had been expected to step down after his 2015 general election swan-song, but he made an unexpected return for both the 2016 EU referendum and the 2017 snap general election – and there have been reports that he could front the BBC’s coverage if there’s another general election this year.
But while he still loves “the drama of politics” and hopes to be involved in some capacity, Dimbleby told us: “I won’t be hosting the general election – I’ve done ten and I think I’ve had my stint. I’ve had my fair share of elections.”
Still – he has no plans to retire.
“I’ve got one two three four balls in the air, so to speak. I’m just playing with ideas at the moment,” he said. “My main plan is not to stop, and carry on broadcasting. I love it. So as long as I can draw breath, I’d like to do it.”