How would you react to a speech by a director of a lauded historical drama that criticises the government’s open disdain for a hugely esteemed and valuable public institution? This is how Justin Timberlake does it, and it’s how you should too:
What came just before was the moment Peter Kosminsky, director of Wolf Hall, launched a tirade against our Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, John Whittingdale, who last week joked that the abolition of the BBC was a “tempting prospect.” Kosminsky’s stern, steely response elicited a standing ovation from the entire audience at London’s Royal Festival Hall.
The creator of The Thick Of It and co-creator of I’m Alan Partridge, Armando Iannucci, also addressed the subject this weekend, writing in The Guardian that if some of the proposed changes to the BBC occur, “it will damage an industry that is world-beating and popular, and which the market tells us should be allowed to thrive.”
Kosminsky, taking home the BAFTA for Best Drama for Wolf Hall – his adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s historical novels about Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII – was uncompromising in his speech, saying that the proposed changes to the BBC would turn it into a state broadcaster, similar to “those bastions of democracy: Russia and North Korea”.
His comments also followed reports in March that Whittingdale’s plans for the BBC involved the government choosing the majority of a new, 13-strong board of directors there. Only two or three of these directors would not be chosen by the government, Whittingdale said, later telling The Sunday Times, “I don’t think the government appointing the BBC non-execs would compromise their independence.”
Read Kosminsky’s full speech below [via The Guardian], and you might feel like JT too:
“In the week in which our secretary of state, 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.
“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 a state broadcaster, where the people who make the editorial decisions are appointed by the government – like they do in those bastions of democracy: Russia or North Korea.
“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.
“As a sign of things to come, the secretary of state has lately been telling the BBC when to schedule its main news bulletin, what programmes it should make and what programmes it shouldn’t make. Do you want this? This is really scary stuff – not something I thought I’d see in my lifetime in this country.
“And you know what? It’s not their BBC, it’s your BBC. In many ways our broadcasting – the BBC, Channel 4 which they are 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.
“If we don’t, blink and it will be gone – no more Wolf Halls, no more award-winning Dispatches documentaries on Channel 4. Just a broadcasting landscape where the only determinant 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.”