Jeremy Paxman has launched a withering attack on the BBC – saying it is in danger of losing its licence fee.
The Newsnight presenter said it was a “mystery” why the corporation, with its assured £3.5 billion income, was having a “budget crisis”.
He told the Edinburgh International Television Festival that the BBC’s own belief that it would be there indefinitely was misplaced.
He said of the licence fee: “The idea of a tax on the ownership of a television belongs in the 1950s.”
Its flagship current affairs programme, Newsnight, was in danger of not surviving if further cuts, which have been mooted, were implemented, he added.
Paxman, 57, called for the BBC’s budget to be more focused on key elements of its programming.
He also used the annual James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture to lambast TV bosses for abdicating responsibility over the scandals which have engulfed programming and phone-ins, and to criticise the 24-hour news culture. He said the BBC Trust, formed in the aftermath of the Hutton scandal, was spending too much time “chastising the senior management”.
He said the TV industry was in danger of losing the trust of viewers and criticised it for being obsessed with “the red button, with interactivity, (and) fatuous opinion polls”.
Instead of focusing resources, “everyone must do more for less”, he said.
He added: “On Newsnight… over the last three years we’ve been required to make budget cuts of 15%. We have lost producers, researchers and reporters. Nor can we make the films we once made. Now we’re told we are likely to have to make more cuts: at least a further 20% over five years. It is unsustainable, and I cannot see how the programme can survive in anything like its current form if the cuts are implemented.”