The MacTaggart Lecture: Immediate Reaction

As delegates at the MediaGuardian Edinburgh International Television Festival filed out of the capital's McEwan Hall -having just heard BBC director general, Mark Thompson, deliver the MacTaggart Lecture – reporters captured the immediate reaction….

“It was a real shame that he failed to give a big vision defence of the BBC. I think it was a missed opportunity.” Matt Wells, media commentator, The Guardian.

I think it was a very good speech, I think it was a classic MacTaggart. He made a very good argument not just the BBC but about the future of British television and the uniqueness of British television.” David Liddiment, BBC Trustee.

“I thought it was a bit of a missed opportunity. I thought that the director general did not really address some of the questions about the BBC, legitimate questions that have been raised over the last twelve months, such as what the BBC should actually do, how much it should cost, and how it should be governed and because he didn’t address those things I think quite a lot of people will go away from here really rather disappointed.” David Wheeldon, director of policy, BSkyB.

“Good to hear the BBC defended, good to hear that he had a vision for the future that may work.” Alistair Scott, Edinburgh Skillset Screen and Media Academy.

“To be perfectly honest, I thought it was very uninspiring. It was largely geared to the ears of BBC staff. To my mind, it didn't really offer any new theories about broadcasting in this country for the next ten years.” Allan MacDonald,, mneTV.

“An excellent speech, a robust defence of the BBC and, most importantly, a defence of the BBC's role in the wider broadcasting ecology. A welcome riposte to James Murdoch's speech of last year.” Robin MacPherson, Edinburgh Skillset Screen and Media Academy.

“I thought it was a very good speech. It was a bit petulant in terms of its swipes at James Murdoch but he made some very good points and certainly I agree with his vision of public service broadcasting in the future. So let’s hope he gets his way. Last year's MacTaggart was a very clear attack on the BBC; he had to respond to that, he had to defend it, it was a little petulant at times, but he made some very good points.” Brian Woods, managing director, True Vision.

“I think it was certainly a passionate speech, I think Mark could have gone into more detail about how he thinks the BBC will be shaped in the next license fee period because that is really where the policy agenda is now. What happens post 2013 when the new license fee comes into force. And he has to be very specific very quickly about what the BBC might stop doing in terms of programmes and services.” Neil Midgley, assistant editor (media), Daily Telegraph.

“I thought it was a very brave defence of the BBC. There are huge commercial forces that want to break up the BBC not for the benefit of the viewer or the listener, but so that they can put money into their own pockets and it is important that we all do rally behind the BBC.” Diane Abbott, Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington.

“Probably the big innovation in his speech was to argue that Sky should start to pay carriage – or the cost of some of the commercial channels that it currently has on the Sky platform – and he singled out obviously Channel 4 and Channel 5 and ITV as being among those. Importantly, he said that the BBC shouldn’t receive income because it already does from the taxpayer via the licence-fee. It’s quite a radical thought and chucking a grenade into the middle of the debate and clearly is a retaliatory strike against Sky in the arguments that will ensue.” Stuart Cosgrove, director of Nations and Regions, Channel 4.

“I guess I wanted him to be a bit more passionate. I thought he was very good but I think that one could move an audience to tears in talking about the BBC and how important it is to Great Britain and I kind of wanted a bit more of that.” Frank Skinner, comedian.

“It was not defensive but made some very important points about the size and scale of the BBC in comparison to the rest of the marketplace, the importance of UK production, which is very critical, the way that the BBC plays its part in supporting the creative industries in Britain, and just pointing out that the world has changed. The idea that a year ago, James Murdoch could stand here and refer to the BBC implausibly and offensively as being dangerous and an organisation kow-towing to government, that shouldn’t be allowed to expand in the way it does; just look at the figures and the facts.” Alan Yentob, creative director, BBC. 

“It was the speech that people wanted to hear because there is a great reservoir of concern for the BBC and affection for it. And they want to hear it defend itself against the extraordinary kind of attack that has been practised over the last few years. And I think it has happened – it was a very good defence. It was about content, not about performance, because Mark Thompson isn’t a performer. That is one of the good and sometimes difficult things about him. He is not a performer but he said things that people wanted to hear and made a very, very powerful case.” Peter York, author, journalist and broadcaster.