Sir Jeremy Isaacs Slams 'Boring and Lazy' Programming

Glasgow-born Sir Jeremy Isaacs, one of broadcasting's most distinguished figures, has delivered a withering verdict on British television – describing much of it as “a complete waste of time”.

In an interview in the Scottish Daily Mail, Sir Jeremy is quoted saying quality drama has been replaced by “boring” and “lazy” reality shows and cookery programmes.

Sir Jeremy, who set up Channel 4 in 1981, is reported saying the country's biggest broadcasters have fallen behind their US rivals.

In the early 1970s, Sir Jeremy produced The World at War, the documentary on the Second World War, which at the time was the most expensive series ever made. It cost almost £900,000 and helped earn him a BAFTA Fellowship award.

In his newspaper interview, he is quoted accusing television chiefs of saturating the schedules with repetitive property and cookery shows – singling out The Apprentice as an example of how output is becoming increasingly less intellectual.

The Scottish Daily Mail reports him, saying: “I don't watch very much television. Only very rarely do I watch something special that I want to see.

“We all know that the best drama at the moment has come from HBO in America, which never used to be the case. Some British drama has done pretty well but you have to find it among a lot of stuff which I regard as a complete waste of time.

“There is an endless, boring insistence that the same subject matter is played over and over and over again, like the number of property and cookery programmes or the number of behave-yourself programmes or the number of how-to-dress programmes or the number of programmes like The Apprentice, where we just see one lot of people bullying another lot of people every day of the week.

“I think it was an obvious trick for somebody to try at one point. But after a time, the people putting it on the screen became lazy and took the view that if two cookery programmes a week worked, then so would four or six and so forth.”

Sir Jeremy, who is the chair of Sky Arts, left Channel 4 in 1987, handing over to Michael Grade.