ENTERTAINMENT
29/09/2015 11:46 BST | Updated 29/09/2015 11:59 BST

Russell T Davies Says British Public Being Sold A Lie Over Plans To Make BBC Follow HBO Subscription Model

Anyone who thinks no one cares about the future of the BBC should have been in the room (actually, tent) when Russell T Davies launched into a tireless crusade, claiming the British public is being "sold a lie" by politicians.

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Not only that, but he stopped talking mid-speech, to look up on his own phone the schedule for the US HBO channel, so he could prove to listeners that the channel's subscription service which he believes is the model for those planning to shape the BBC, has nothing like the value nor quantity of content we currently enjoy.

russell t davies

Russell T Davies claims the British public is being sold a lie about what the future holds for the BBC

"I honestly think this fight has been lost and we are heading towards some sort of subscriber service," he told the crowd at the Radio Times Festival, before reaching for his phone to access the HBO schedule, and going through it to prove how little original content there actually is available.

"People say that we should have HBO, the finest broadcaster in the world… It gives you nothing," he explained.

"The truth of it is, you have got seven channels. You pay $15 a month, which equals £118 a year, a bit less than the licence fee. But what you get is no news, no soap opera, no weather, no radio stations. Nothing like that. People talk about 'Game of Thrones', well, that’s ten weeks a year.

david tennant

David Tennant starred in Russell T Davies retelling of 'Casanova'

"We are being led to a subscriber service, which you are being told is marvellous and it’s a lie. A couple of hours of good dramas a week and nothing else. That, in ten years’ time is what they will demand the BBC becomes and it is a disgrace.”

Russell, who has helmed outstanding shows across the main British channels, from 'Casanova' and 'Doctor Who' on the BBC, to 'Queer as Folk' and 'Cucumber' on Channel 4, voiced his despair at what he sees as the imminent ruin of the BBC.

"We are standing on a precipice where the BBC is about to fall into a ravine.

"My take on it is that we have lost. I absolutely think that. The problem is people say you can fight for the BBC but there is no fight. You can [only] submit some opinions to the green paper. John Whittingdale, the culture secretary went to Edinburgh [Television Festival] and said we are not going to privatise Channel 4 and lied to the country because today we saw that yes, they are looking to privatise Channel 4.

"They are dead set against the BBC. It’s just a fact. They are being honest Tories. Tories believe in a free market against the state and they think this the way to do it. They are not lying, they are being very true to themselves."

Davies said the BBC was so huge that it couldn’t be defended against all charges by its supporters which he believes is crippling the argument for its survival.

"Defending the BBC, you get stuck. It is so huge [that] it is like defending a city. There are some corners of London you can’t defend."

Russell's wasn't the only voice crying out in defence of the beleaguered BBC at the Festival. Veteran funnyman Barry Cryer spoke out at his session, describing the BBC as being "under siege at the moment".

He added, "Yes through rather a lot of self-inflicted wounds but they're getting support from abroad and from other countries — but it's ours. If it's at the mercy of the politicians, God help us."

BAFTA-winning Mackenzie Crook, who found fame in 'The Office' before writing and directing his own series 'The Detectorists', told the crowd his slow-paced show would never have been commissioned outside the BBC, while Lord Melvyn Bragg added his voice to those protesting to the proposed cuts at the heart of the Corporation.

Even Sir Bruce Forsyth weighed in on the debate, saying, "The BBC should be with us forever."

He did, however, have some suggestions for how the broadcaster can save money in light of the government's recent green paper...

"Do without three and four, and concentrate on channels one and two," he said, "That's what I'd do if I were Director General. They are having to spread too much money out over four channels."

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