Edinburgh TV Festival: What happened on the third and final day

On the third and final morning of the TV Festival, a Question Time-style session chaired by journalist Kirsty Walk was enlivened by the two politicians who took the opportunity to revisit old arguments as well as finding entirely new ways of disagreeing with one another.

Shadow Culture Secretary Chris Bryant sat at one end of the panel, while Conservative MP Philip Davies sat at the other. In between were Ralph Lee - deputy chief creative officer Channel 4; Jane Turton – chief executive of all3media; and Lorraine Heggessey - sitting in for producer for the BBC Peter Salmon, who was unable to attend.

Bryant branded Hall "a coward" for not standing up to George Osborne and John Whittinghall's decision to make the BBC accountable for the free licence fees enjoyed by households that includes anyone over the age of 75.

According to the MP, the Tories had no mandate to make this change as they hadn't included the proposal in their manifesto and he was furious that Hall had not garnered public support in a bid to resist the change.

For Davies, the BBC should be accountable for collecting all of its revenue. As unreconstructed a free-marketer as it's possible to imagine, Davies spoke as though his lines were some kind of perverse postscript to Armando Iannucci's MacTaggart lecture. The idea of a licence fee-funded BBC is anathema to Davies who cannot understand why the broadcaster isn't willing to adopt a subscription model if - as it claims - it is so widely valued by British viewers.

The other panellists were, unsurprisingly, much closer to Bryant's position than Davies's and though they acknowledged a need to examine other ways of funding the BBC, they didn't feel any kind of subscription model was currently viable. For Heggessey this is a technological constraint rather than a philosophical one and she made it clear she is open to other funding arrangements once superfast broadband allows it.

A similar conversation ensued about the possibility of moving Channel 4 out of the public sector. Davies listed examples of public service broadcasting (PSB) in the private sector and could see no danger whatsoever to Channel 4's remit if they had shareholders and investors to satisfy, describing the opposite position as "a typical left-wing view".

Bryant said "the only way to make sense of selling Channel 4 would be to strip it of its PSB remit" and the others largely agreed. Turton could not imagine that a change in ownership would not affect Channel 4's "appetite for risk" and Lee who works at the station in question and has experience working at Channel 5 suggested the remit is embedded in Channel 4's DNA: "day-by-day we live the remit."

Addressing Nicola Sturgeon's proposal for additional strands of the BBC dedicated to Scotland, the panel was divided: Davies said he wasn't "going to lose any sleep" about the First Minister's dissatisfaction with the status quo before adding she should "calm down" about perceptions of bias. Bryant deplored his language but criticised attempts to bully the BBC north of the border.

Everyone apart from Davies felt the growing cultural differences between the four nations of the UK made it sensible for Scotland to have a separate news bulletin at six o'clock.

A consensus formed around the issue of ITV's ownership with no ideological objections to the foreign investment that's starting to look inevitable. Bryant worries about the prospect of Armando Iannucci's 'mysterious M' - Rupert Murdoch - gaining a share of ITV but, apart from that, appeared reasonably relaxed about the prospect.

The earlier discord faded further from the audience's memory when they discussed the advance of streaming services and wondered whether they are a threat or an opportunity. Davies conceded the other panellists were more expert than he before offering his instinctive view: "I don't know whether they're a threat or an opportunity but it actually isn't relevant... what they are is a reality" and - surprising as it may seem - this was a neat summary of everyone else's views too.

For more on the Edinburgh International Television Festival follow The Drum's live coverage here.

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