'Even though it's a creative industry, it is an industry' – Armando Iannucci contrasts HBO approach with BBC

A bleary-eyed Armando Iannucci faced a sparsely occupied room at the TV festival this morning where he was quizzed about the MacTaggart lecture he delivered to great acclaim last night.

The comedy legend reiterated his support for the BBC and largely declined the opportunity to highlight its flaws, judging it "not the right time" for that battle, even though he willingly acknowledged its faults are many and chose not to contradict a delegate who claimed that "middle management at the BBC is still crap".

However, he did once again bemoan the BBC's unwillingness to promote its wares overseas and said it should do whatever was required to build sales overseas while suggesting that part of the problem is the 'damned if they do and damned if the don't' attitude the corporation faces when it makes money or achieves impressive ratings.

"Even though it's a creative industry, it is an industry," he reminded the audience as he spoke fondly of the much more pragmatic approach he's enjoyed when working with HBO on Veep where he's been given the kind of free-hand he used to enjoy at the BBC. To that end, he advocated a structured commissioning process that would allow programme-makers to plan ahead, arguing: "If [broadcasters] talk more frequently to contributors then you'll get a faster turnover on decisions."

Asked to identify the existential threat to the BBC he identified in his speech as 'M', Iannucci claimed he hadn't any specific figure in mind but acknowledged that it could be Rupert Murdoch – as surely most people imagined – but could also be the Mail or some other unknown malignancy.

He laughed off the suggestion that he'd effectively 'won the argument' when John Whittingdale said during his session yesterday that the Government had no plans to dismantle the BBC while acknowledging that defending the BBC against a emasculating reorganisation is more difficult that defending a particular service when its threatened because it's more nebulous to fight against restructuring than it is to save Radio 6.

This was a far cry from the rallying call Iannucci issued last night which had him muttering darkly about the consequences for politicians if they overstepped the mark... in more sombre mood this morning, he acknowledged the public's apathy but expressed the fear that "they will only notice it when it's gone."

Jason Stone is a media writer and editor of David Reviews. Follow our live coverage from the Edinburgh International TV Festival here

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