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Actors and Labour attack ‘mendacious BBC meddling’

Shadow Culture Secretary Maria Eagle has warned UK Culture Secretary John Whittingdale that he must not ignore the wishes of the public as he prepares to publish a White Paper on BBC Charter renewal.

Eagle said Whittingdale “seems determined to diminish” the corporation, adding that the Labour party would oppose him “all the way”.

Her comments came following suggestions that Whittingdale plans to force the BBC to publish how much it pays top talent earning over £150,000 (€189k) and impose scheduling restrictions to stop it showing hit shows such as Strictly Come Dancing at prime time, going head to head with commercial broadcasters.

Eagle said: “John Whittingdale seems determined to diminish the BBC and deliver a Charter that ignores the wishes of the public and is not in the interests of the BBC, licence fee payers or our broadcasting industries.”

“Proposals to further top slice the licence fee and pack a new governing board with Tory appointees would be a real hammer blow to the independence of the BBC, and be more evidence of mendacious meddling on the part of the Secretary of State. Labour will oppose them all the way.”

“The Culture Secretary must stop ignoring the wishes of the public, who are clear that they want the BBC to remain independent and to carry on producing the programmes we all enjoy.”

Eagle’s comments follow stout defences of the Corporation expressed by winners at the BAFTA TV awards the previous evening.

Peter Kosminsky, who directed Wolf Hall, accused Whittingdale of seeking to “eviscerate” the BBC and Channel 4. “In many ways our broadcasters, the BBC and Channel 4, which they’re also attempting to eviscerate, are the envy of the world and we should stand up and fight for it,” he said in his acceptance speech for best director. “This is really scary stuff folks – not something I thought I’d see in my lifetime in this country. It’s not their BBC. It’s your BBC. There will be no more Wolf Hall, no more ground-breaking Dispatches,” he warned.

Actor Mark Rylance, who starred in BBC drama Wolf Hall, said in his acceptance speech for best actor, that “the incredible variety” of popular culture in Britain had really blown his mind. “I think woe to any government or any corporation that tries to come between that,” he declared.

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