BAFTA TV Awards pack a political punch and the winner is… the BBC

Peter Kosminsky, Mark Rylance, Ian Hislop and Lenny Henry all used their acceptance speeches to broadcast serious messages

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The 2016 BAFTA TV Awards will be remembered as the year the stars got political. With the imminent publication of the Government’s White Paper, ongoing discussions of charter renewal and John Whittingdale’s very public disdain for the Corporation, the BBC is under threat like never before and so it comes as no surprise that the creatives it champions were on the defensive.

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Leading the charge was Peter Kosminsky whose triumph in the first category of the evening – Wolf Hall picked up Best Drama Series – provided him with the perfect opportunity to set a political tone for the evening, one that was echoed by the likes of James Nesbitt, Mark Rylance and Ian Hislop who also took a stand against the Government’s proposals for the Beeb.

In a year with relatively little frivolity – besides Aidan Turner’s man bunPeter Kay’s superbly speechless speech and Graham Norton’s witty asides – the underlying tone was a serious one, whether it be about the future of the BBC or diversity on screen.

Here are the political acceptance speeches in full – including the section of Kosminsky’s that didn’t make it into the TV broadcast.


PETER KOSMINSKY (winner of Best Drama Series for Wolf Hall)

“In the week John Whittingdale described the disappearance of the BBC as ‘a tempting prospect’, I’d like to say a few words in defence of that organisation.

“I think most people would agree that the BBC’s main job is to speak truth to power, to report to the British public without fear or favour, no matter how unpalatable that might be to those in government. It’s a public broadcaster independent of government…

[NOT BROADCAST ] “not a state broadcaster where the people who make the editorial decisions are appointed by the government. A bit like they do in those bastions of democracy Russia or North Korea. It’s your BBC. Make no mistake, all of this is under threat right now. The Secretary of State has talked about putting six government nominees – a working majority – onto the editorial board of the BBC. Think about that for a moment – the editorial board. The body charged with safeguarding the editorial independence of the BBC from, amongst other things, government interference, will be appointed by the government. And as a sign of things to come, the Secretary of State has lately been telling the BBC when to schedule its news bulletin, what programmes to make, what not to make. Do you want this? This is really scary stuff folks, not something Ithought I’d see in my lifetime in this country. And do you know what? It’s not their BBC,

“It’s your BBC. In many ways our broadcasting – the BBC and Channel 4 (which they’re also attempting to eviscerate) – is the envy of the world and we should stand up and fight for it, not let it go by default. And if we don’t, blink and it will be gone. There will be no more Wolf Halls. No more award-winning Dispatches, documentaries on Channel 4, just a broadcasting landscape where the only determinate of whether something gets made is whether it’s likely to line the pockets of its shareholders. No. No. It’s time for us to stand up and say no to this dangerous nonsense. Thank you very much.”

And later backstage: 

“Without the BBC Wolf Hall would not have been made. This is a really dangerous time for broadcasting in Britain. This feels like a wrecking ball aimed at a successful revenue and prestige earned for this country.”


MARK RYLANCE (Winner of Best Leading Actor for Wolf Hall)

“I’m really struck tonight by the quality of the storytelling in this country and I agree with Peter that times are hard. But I think woe to any government or corporation who tries to get between the British people and their love of a good joke, a true story, a good song, a fact, a fiction good sports commentating, newscasters who can hold themselves together and tell stories about tragedies in Paris, people who can cook well and bake cakes. The incredible variety of popular culture in this country – it’s really blown my mind tonight and I think woe to any government or any corporation who tries to come between that.

“We’re a nation of storytellers and we’re admired around the world for it and long may that live and long may that be a privilege of the people here without having to watch commercials.”


JAMES NESBITT (Presenter of Best Single Drama)

“Our four nominations are from ITV, Channel 4 and BBC but with new and exciting drama on Sky and improvised drama on Channel 5 primetime, it’s clear that excellence and diversity is alive and well across all our channels, commercial and public service. But – and echoing Peter Kosminsky here a wee bit – I think it’s true that all these films, their writers, their directors, their cast and crew and – let’s face it – everyone here in this hall, are able to do what they do as well as they do because of the BBC. Do not strip it away. I mean, did he watch the Hollow Crown last night? Please protect it, let’s cherish it.”


IAN HISLOP (Winner of Best Comedy & Comedy Entertainment Programme for Have I Got News For You)

“Reiterating the theme of the evening, I would like to thank the BBC who have allowed Have I Got News for You for a very long time to be very rude about governments of all persuasions and their oppositions and indeed to be very rude about the BBC themselves which is a privilege you’re given with public service broadcasting and not on state television.”

And later backstage: 

“I have a feeling John Whittingdale’s ideal HIGNIFY panel would be the Prime Minister as host, the defence secretary and the home secretary as the two team captains.

“It’s a ludicrous idea what he’s proposing. But I think like most of the really terrible ideas this government has come up with, in about three weeks it’ll decide they never meant it anyway. That’s what we hope.”


JACK THORNE (Winner of Best Single Drama for Don’t Take My Baby)

“We’re having a wonderful debate about diversity at the moment and trying to sort out the problems in our industry and the sector that seems to get missed out quite a lot of the time is disability. The cuts to access to work are making it very difficult for theatre, film and TV companies to employ disabled talent and that’s wrong and that’s got to change.”


TOM HIDDLESTON (Presenter of Best Leading Actress)

“I’m very happy to manage the night at any time, particularly on the BBC.”


LENNY HENRY (Recipient of the Alan Clarke Award)

“I believe British TV is the best in the world and if it feels like I’m banging on about diversity all the time, it’s because I believe in increasing it so that we truly reflect our fantastic nation, ensuring that all those 14 year-olds out there superglued to their phones who hope to work in TV irrespective of their race, gender, sexuality, class, disability can realise that ambition as I was able to realise mine. If we do this we will make this fantastic industry even greater and I know that everybody in this room tonight shares that ambition. So please, let’s keep working together to make this a reality. Let’s create a coalition of the willing and please, let’s put it in the charter.”

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Watch the House of Fraser BAFTA TV Awards again on BBC iPlayer