John Humphrys: BBC is too big and should be slimmed down

Veteran broadcaster joins calls for change despite warning from BBC chief to stop attacking corporation

John Humphrys

JOHN HUMPHRYS believes the BBC is too big and suffers from a surfeit of executives who tie people up in meetings.

While the presenter of BBC Radio 4's Today programme believes the broadcaster is still "a profound force for good", he said more cost-cutting was required to slim it down. His comments echo those of another BBC stalwart, Question Time host David Dimbleby, who last year said that the BBC needs to "redefine" its role and examine "whether it is too powerful for its own good".

Those comments – and similar criticisms aired by comedian Jennifer Saunders and broadcaster Sir Terry Wogan - prompted a BBC chief to issue a warning to its stars that they should stop criticising the corporation in public. Danny Cohen, the BBC's director of television, said the barrage of negative comments "drives staff mad".

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Humphrys took little heed of that warning when he addressed a Media Society event in London last night, reports The Guardian. The veteran broadcaster said he believed the licence fee would be renewed in upcoming negotiations with the government, but would not result in a "generous settlement".

That was appropriate, Humphrys said, because cutting costs at the broadcaster was "the right step". In particular, he said the number of executives should be slimmed down.

He added: "Ask how many meetings there are. Ring up someone, and they are in a meeting. Reporters matter above all others. The reporters on the road that report. You can do without almost everyone else."

Humphrys said he worries that entertainment is being "pushed too far up the agenda" at the BBC. He also voiced concerns about news programmes responding immediately to "self-serving groups with an axe to grind" on Twitter and social media sites.

Humphrys, who does not use Twitter, added: "We have to be terribly nervous about the whole social media [area]."

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