The morning after his MacTaggart, Louis Theroux has called out the “right-skewing press” and “vested interests” who want to defund the BBC.
The celebrated documentarian delivered the annual address last night, during which he said an “atmosphere of anxiety” is leading to “less confident filmmaking,” while he floated that the BBC is at times overly worried of “causing offence.”
Reflecting during his post-MacTaggart session Thursday morning, Theroux said his lecture had “very little that was critical about the BBC” but he expected the press to focus on “one or two small qualifications.”
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“I wouldn’t be surprised if the anti-BBC stuff is out there,” he added, in conversation with Mobeen Azhar.
He floated that there were “three audiences” for his MacTaggart: “one in the room, some in the wider community and then the audience in the press, many of whom are right-skewing press looking for anything they can use to defund the BBC.”
Theroux defended the public broadcaster, calling out those who believe that “New Broadcasting House program makers are the enemy.”
“It’s possible that the licence fee is on some sort of managed decline,” he said. “There are vested interests lobbying and campaigning for a ‘Brexit from the licence fee ‘.”
Instead, Theroux urged te audience to “spread the word and advocate for the BBC.”
“Streamers aren’t doing local news or Britain-focused doc making,” he said. “Netflix is amazing but it is a transnational corporation with a global outlook that is not telling me much about what is happening in London.”
Delivering his worst-case scenarion for the direction of the media landscape, Theroux described an “increasingly siloed, ultra-libertarian vision that has a surface appeal.”
“There would be endless pundits on YouTube and similar outlets siloed across whatever future version of these tech platforms is consuming their own excrement in digital form, vomiting out and eating back up their toxic self-brainwashing content about the earth being flat and people wanting to come in and rape our spouses,” he explained.
Since launching his production company, Mindhouse, Theroux has begun making shows beyond the BBC such for the likes of Amazon Prime Video and Spotify. He described the latter, for which he makes a podcast, as “a way of experiencing life outside the BBC in a measured way.”
Theroux also weighed in on the debate sparked yesterday by Azhar and doc bosses at the BBC, Sky and Prime Video about whether docmakers should pay contributors.
He revealed that he has started paying celebrities to appear in his BBC chatshow, having initially made no payment. “It is a guilty secret that you’d rather not do but it can happen,” he said.
“A few whiskies and a lot of diazepam”
The docmaker revealed he “had a few whiskies and had taken a lot of diazepam” to help him sleep the night before the MacTaggart, an address that “wasn’t my natural mode,” according to Theroux.
“It was like being in a fugue state,” he added of delivering ths speech.
“I’m not a polemicist – this is the opposite of what I normally do. I used to want to be invisible, to be a cipher-like presence in films, an enigmatic questioner.”
Theroux was speaking on the Thursday of the Edinburgh TV Festival, with the likes of Jesse Armstrong and Sally Wainwright still to keynote along with bosses at the BBC and Channel 4.
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