Russell T Davies has featured in the news regularly recently, with his name cropping up perhaps more often than at any point since he relinquished the showrunner’s seat on Doctor Who. This level of exposure is thanks to his hit drama It’s A Sin, the Channel 4 series documenting the lives of a group of young people through the AIDS epidemic.
In a new podcast interview with Gaby Roslin, Davies has returned to a theme he’s commented on a number of times; that of the future of the BBC, which he warned is heading for extinction “right now in front of us”, despite UK television being in a “golden age for drama”.
“The amount of author-owned, personal drama pieces that are being broadcast is 10 times the number than in the ’60s. People say Play for Today was the height of television. We’re getting series like that every week now, not quite every week, but it’s in a glorious state.
“The state of the broadcasters is not so magnificent … I’ve given up fighting for it.”
Davies has previously strongly criticised the UK government’s approach to the BBC, arguing ministers have starved the corporation of funding and are fundamentally opposed to public service broadcasting.
One doesn’t have to look too hard to find evidence to back up his argument, whether it be warnings that the licence fee could be abolished from 2027, or the political flack the corporation is being subjected to for the decision to end free TV licences for over 75s not on a low income. Then there is the threat posed by streaming services, with younger audiences drifting away from traditional broadcasters.
On the other hand, it could be argued that the pandemic has led many people to value the BBC rather more than they had done previously, whether it be for news coverage, radio stations or, as Davies suggests, its dramas, with the likes of The Serpent, I May Destroy You, and Normal People attracting large audiences as well as critical acclaim over the past year. It’s possible that the government will meet an unfavourable reaction from voters if the BBC is fatally undermined by political decisions.
You can hear the interview in full on That Gaby Roslin Podcast, available free on podcast platforms.