The BBC is being “chopped away” and its future looks bleak, according to the corporation’s veteran foreign journalist John Simpson.
Fearless for his own career, the BBC’s world affairs editor told an audience at the Cheltenham Literature Festival predicted he would eventually be fired by the “so and so’s” at the top revealing: “I hate them pretty much anyway.”
The foreign correspondent, who has visited 120 countries, later softened and admitted he was “sort of” fond of the “magnificent outfit”.
He told the festival last night: “Anyone who wants to cut the BBC down – and there’s lots who do – the way to do it is to chop away at the money.
“We are already cutting back on all our operations across the board, as a result of the effective cut in the licence fee.
“The future? Well, I don’t think that it’s going to look very good for the BBC.
“I think the BBC we have known, for good or worse, is now in its last stages. It pains me after 42 years of working for it to think that, but I alas do.
“I think the standards will be there, just as they are with other organisations which have been built on the BBC model, but it takes money.
“Now that the commercial principle is failing the broadcasters, it means the way in which our entire broadcasting system has functioned for decades since 1955 is now under very serious threat. It will be very different indeed. It may be better but I somehow doubt it.
“What the hell do I care? I’ll be 75 or something like that. I’ll be just that age when people start turning round and saying nasty things about the BBC.”
Simpson then turned on Terry Wogan, calling his recent criticism of the BBC “strange”.
He joked: “He said something particularly savage. I can’t remember what it was. I thought somebody surely should have a word with him about that. Up he popped on some independent television programme.
“That’s what you do. You wait until you’ve finished and then say something nasty about it.
“I shall no doubt be sacked under horrible circumstances. Things will be absolutely dreadful. I’ll hate the so and so’s – I hate them pretty much anyway, but I’ll hate them even more.
“Then I’ll be tempted to say that standards have definitely dropped, when what I mean is that I’m not around any more!
“I just hope – and I hope you’ll keep me to it – if I were to get the boot from the BBC, perhaps after what I’ve said this evening, and I pop up and start denigrating it, I do hope you’ll remind me how I despise that tendency among people.
“I hope I won’t do it. If you take someone’s money, you owe them a certain debt of loyalty. Although the BBC is a difficult organisation sometimes to work for in peace and harmony, it nevertheless, in its way, is a magnificent outfit and I’m very fond of it – sort of.”