Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Dennis Potter 1993 MacTaggart lecture Edinburgh
"I am giving the melodramatic and not at all tuneful title Occupying Powers to this year’s James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture. The title has not been chosen simply to indulge yet again in the inevitable paranoia which so afflicts writers that work in television, although I’ll give that a go too. No, I call this Occupying Powers so that I can reflect behind the barricade of metaphor about what it really feels like, for many others besides myself who sell their services and some of their passions to the strange new generations of broadcasting managements and their proprietors. More than that, wider than that, I want to use the title to reach beyond our parochial concerns and grapple with a few thoughts about what it means to be a citizen (or do I mean a consumer) in the United Kingdom plc., where two-thirds of the population live on incomes below the national average of £250.00 a week, almost 5.75million exist on less than £100.00 a week, three million are unemployed, three million children live in poverty, one-fifth of the young are innumerate, the chasm between the highest and lowest paid is wider than at any time since 1886, and Dave Lee Travis has resigned from Radio 1. What is at the heart of such a distorted society? “Broadcasting is at the heart of British Society. The structure and the competition of the broadcasting industry, the purpose and motivation of broadcasters and the programmes and services they offer are vital factors in reflecting and shaping that society.” I, too, would like a mirror that reflects and shapes, but these are the words of the BBC at its most ponderously anodyne as it responded to the Government’s Green Paper on the future of the Corporation. The particular quotation is certainly one which James MacTaggart would have taken for granted with as little sense of astonishment as if someone on an outside consultancy contract had told him on three identical bits of thermal paper that a walk along the corridors of Television Centre will always bring you back shaken but not stirred to where you started."