Armando Iannucci to deliver MacTaggart lecture

The Thick Of It creator to discuss the future of BBC funding in Edinburgh TV festival keynote speech

The Thick Of It creator Armando Iannucci will give the MacTaggart keynote lecture at the 40th Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival in August.

His speech will cover the future of BBC funding at a crucial juncture for the corporation, which is set to begin charter renewal negotiations later this year.

Iannucci, who was also behind I’m Alan Partridge and HBO series Veep, told the Guardian in March that the BBC needed to face up to the end of the licence fee as viewing habits change.

“More and more people are poking their heads up and saying, ‘do you think the licence fee is going to last?’ It would be lovely but I really don’t. Inevitably it’s going to fall apart, or it’s going to be more difficult to collect or sustain,” he said.

“Why not just bite the bullet and say, ‘OK, let’s do a completely different way of funding’ rather than having a switch forced on them by circumstances or legislation.”

This year’s TV festival in Edinburgh is designed to be more “talent-focused” and international.

Festival advisory chair Zai Bennett, who is also director of Sky Atlantic, said: “I promised when I became advisory chair that we would strive to make the festival more international and more entertaining than ever and I can’t think of a more appropriate MacTaggart than Armando.”

Iannucci will also discuss what TV channels are for and the changing way people view TV.

In a statement announcing his appearance he said: “In the current climate where no one knows what the hell is going to happen to TV schedules, revenues, watching habits, funding, quality control, the BBC, investment, licence fees, charters, and government interference, I’m terribly excited to be asked to join the debate in this, perhaps our most spectacularly clueless year.

“Nobody knows anything, and in my MacTaggart lecture, I’m sure that will become abundantly clear. I’ll do my very best, though, to show why TV still matters.”

Iannucci’s speech will come at a sensitive time for the BBC, which is is facing a licence fee freeze until at least 2016 and charter renewal negotiations later this year under new culture secretary John Whittingdale.

Whittingdale has previously said he believes the licence fee is “worse than the poll tax”, and has suggested that eventually part of the fee would become non-compulsory. However, he has also predicted the method of funding the corporation would survive the next charter and could be around for 20 to 50 years.

Previous MacTaggart lectures have been given by presenter Jeremy Paxman, actor Kevin Spacey, former BBC director general Greg Dyke and the then News Corp Europe and Asia chief executive and chairman James Murdoch.

Murdoch used his appearance to attack the BBC and describing the corporation’s size and ambitions as “chilling” and accusing it of mounting a “land grab” in a beleaguered media market.


Jasper Jackson

The GuardianTramp

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