'Spooky force' trying to bring down the BBC claims Veep creator Armando Iannucci

Armando Iannucci used the platform provided by the International TV Festival in Edinburgh to attack those who favour a diminished BBC in a speech bristling with good humour and withering bite.

Before defending the corporation, the Veep creator reminded a packed industry audience of his own debt to the broadcaster for nurturing his talent as a young man and eventually allowing him to create some of the most brilliant television comedy of the last twenty years.

Iannucci highlighted many of the contradictions which make it so difficult for anyone to claim true expertise in this realm. He singled out the belief that audiences are demanding ever smaller bites of entertainment by pointing out that they'll happily binge-watch an entire box set in a single sitting.

Borrowing a phrase from the Tories, Iannucci told the audience that he liked to think we "are all in it together" and while he acknowledged there was a satirical edge to this claim, he said he was deadly serious about the idea that everyone must work together if the BBC is to be saved from those who wish it harm.

To the surprise of those who imagine Iannucci to be a dyed-in-the-wool defender of public service broadcasting for its own sake, he advocated for greater commercialism from the BBC, albeit strictly in foreign markets: "If the licence fee is under strain, then let's supplement it... by pushing ourselves more commercially abroad."

And he made it clear in the early part of his speech that he certainly doesn't think the BBC is beyond criticism. Making Veep for HBO was, he said, a dream compared with making programmes in the UK these days: US companies have created a model based on the way the British broadcasters used to be.

Having made his own criticisms of the corporation, Iannucci spent the rest of his speech underlining the value of the UK's creative industry and made the case for them to defend themselves more rigorously: "When the media, communications and information industries make up nearly 8 per cent of our GDP, larger than the car and oil and gas industries put together, we need to be heard, as those industries are heard."

To counter any suggestion that he represents those on the left who feel the BBC should be immunised against the challenges of the real world, Iannucci consistently quoted figures from the political right to illustrate his claim that the BBC was often criticised precisely because it had proven it is up to the task.

He claimed that the failure to recognise this is "bad capitalism"... asserting that the BBC should be encouraged in its effort to become an even greater force overseas. A similar success story in the car industry would have government ministers championing it all over the world.

He pointed out that Rupert Murdoch – of all people – had anticipated in his 1989 MacTaggart that: "In future, the ascendant nations with the highest living standards will be those who master not land and material but ideas and technologies" and that the BBC were at the vanguard of this effort.

Furthermore, Iannucci asserted, the BBC shouldn't be criticised for the reach of its website or the ubiquity of the iPlayer as it is only responding to James Murdoch's 2009 assertion that "we no longer have a TV market, a newspaper market, a publishing market. We have indisputably an all-media market".

To account for politicians' inability to recognise the value of the BBC there must be, he said, some "spooky force bending the ear of Chancellors and Ministers and civil servants and asking them to cull the BBC". This he dubbed 'M'... adding - to laughter - that 'M' represented the word 'mysterious' rather than the surname of any Australian-born media mogul whose business interests might threaten British institutions.

He addressed the perception that the BBC has a leftwards political bias by quoting Toby Young who - ahead of an appearance on 'Question Time' – said it's not true that "the BBC packs the audience with lefties. The makers of the programme bend over backwards to try to ensure the audience contains a broad cross-section of political views. By definition, a majority of them won’t be Conservative voters.. But that’s the country’s anti-Tory bias, not the BBC’s."

He pointed out that broadcasters like Nick Robinson, Jeremy Paxman and Andrew Neil - one way or another – have revealed right-leaning sympathies without allowing their personal convictions to interfere with their professionalism or impartiality. According to Iannucci, any sense that this trio will allow their views to colour their approach comes from our own prejudices and he urged right-leaning critics to offer the same respect to figures on the left.

In the same vein, he implored those who are ideologically opposed to the BBC to come clean about their real motives. After debunking a chart produced by the Government designed to illustrate the dominance of the BBC, he said there was not point in rebutting the statistical arguments because ultimately "numbers will be pummeled into whatever conclusion needs reaching."

At the conclusion of his rousing and often hilarious speech, Iannucci drew a standing ovation from a receptive audience who were largely delighted to hear his defiant and passionate endorsement of the BBC, imploring everyone to "defend it".

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