Baftas: Wolf Hall director gives warning over future of BBC

Wolf Hall director Peter Kosminsky used his acceptance speech at last night's British Academy Television Awards (Baftas) to wade into the row over future plans for the BBC.

The Wolf Hall team with Peter Kosminsky. Picture: PA

Kosminsky received a standing ovation at the awards at London’s Royal Festival Hall when he warned that the future of the BBC was “under threat, make no mistake about that”.

Speaking as he accepted best drama series for the Hilary Mantel adaptation, he said the Government was trying to “eviscerate” the BBC, meaning no more productions such as the Tudor drama.

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He referred to Culture Secretary John Whittingdale’s reported plans to interfere with the scheduling of shows such as the BBC News at 10 and Strictly Come Dancing as similar to the “bastions of democracy Russia and North Korea”.

The BBC fears plans in a white paper to be published this Thursday renewing the corporation’s royal charter could represent an indirect assault on its independence.

Last night he said: “In many ways our broadcasters, the BBC and Channel 4, which they’re also attempting to eviscerate, are the envy of the world and we should stand up and fight for it.

“This is really scary stuff folks, not something I thought I’d see in my lifetime in this country. It is not their BBC, it’s your BBC. There will be no more Wolf Hall, no more groundbreaking Dispatches.”

Instead, he claimed programming would be made on the basis of how much it “lines the pockets of its shareholders”. He urged viewers to “stand up to this dangerous nonsense”.

Meanwhile, Strictly Come Dancing beat the likes of Britain’s Got Talent and Adele At The BBC to take home its first ever TV Bafta for best entertainment programme. The award for single documentary went to Channel 4’s My Son The Jihadi, while the current affairs award was won by BBC2’s Outbreak: The Truth About Ebola (This World).

Channel 4 News’s coverage of the Paris attacks won the news coverage award. Presenter Jon Snow called the event the most “testing evening he has ever known in news television”.

BBC1 series Doctor Foster lost out in the mini-series category to Channel 4’s This Is England ‘90, but the star of the former, Suranne Jones, later picked up the leading actress award. Mark Rylance was named leading actor for Wolf Hall.

Best comedy performance by an actress went to Michaela Coel for her performance in Chewing Gum, while Peter Kay won the best male comedy performance.

The Bafta Fellowship award went to comedy writing duo Alan Simpson and Ray Galton, who recorded a video thank you message.

Sherlock star Martin Freeman presented the Radio Times audience award to the Poldark team.

Sir Tom Courtenay accepted the award for best supporting actor as he begrudgingly accepted his title as a “veteran” of the industry. Supporting actress went to Chanel Cresswell for This Is England ‘90.

Lenny Henry was the Special Award recipient for 2016. Reflecting a topic he has spoken strongly about in the past, he said in his acceptance speech: “I believe in increasing diversity in TV so that we truly reflect our fantastic nation.”