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    27 February, 2005

    Tories launch attack on BBC

    With three days to go before the publication of the BBC Green Paper, the Conservative Party has launched an attack on the BBC over a planned drama on the miners' strike. John Whittingdale, the Tories culture spokesperson, is biased against the Conservatives. I look forward to watching it.

    One of the first attacks some backbench Conservatives launched when I arrived at the BBC in 1993 as its Head of Public Affairs was on a play by Ronan Bennett about Northern Ireland, called Love Lies Bleeding. They said it was pro-IRA. In fact, it was a masterly critique of the tensions within paramilitary organisations.

    Well, I haven't seen this new drama yet obviously, but I'm encouraged by what its author, William Ivory, says in the Observer article.

    To be fair to Whittingdale, who is or was a heavy metal fan, if I remember correctly he stood up for Radio 1 being part of the BBC's portfolio of radio stations when others wanted to privatise it. But I think he also complained about Casualty focusing too much on Tory cuts in the NHS.

    I think Whittingdale has a point when he says the BBC screwed up over Ian Curteis's The Falklands Play. It wasn't the greatest play in the world but it was plausible and no worse than some other plays the BBC had broadcast.

    He also has a point about The Project, which was crap.

    But his current complaint isn't really about the content of the drama to be shown tomorrow. At least Whittingdale has seen it. It is about the Conservatives stoking up criticism of the BBC to get themselves some airtime and column inches. I doubt Whittingdale really cares one way or the other about the film. It's just playing to the Tory party gallery - the story will pass most voters by, but it's not aimed at them. The objective is to keep the right-wing Mediawatch/Christian Voice brigade on board with the Tories. It's even hard to take it seriously as an attack on the BBC, though of course, it must be resisted.

    Personally, I'm with this guy:

    Tim Firth, writer of On the Preston Front and Calendar Girls, said: 'The most damaging thing about this Tory proposal is that it implies that writers have a political agenda above everything else. Most writers, I know, would like to believe they don't have any strict political allegiance. It is ridiculous and would sound the death knell for drama if political content had to be weighed in that way.'

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    Promoted by Leighton Andrews AM, National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff CF99 1NA.

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