August 25, 2008

Former BBC Controller Breaks Silence on Queengate Career Hit an ‘Iceberg’ After Royal Film


THE former controller of BBC1, Peter Fincham, has for the first time spoken about the "Queengate" scandal which forced him to leave the corporation.

Delivering the James McTaggart Memorial Lecture at the annual Edinburgh International Television Festival, Mr Fincham - now director of television for the ITV network - said his career hit an "iceberg" in the affair.

"I discovered that being at the heart of a media storm is an odd mixture of the surreal and of the very real. Not much fun, to tell the truth, " he told the audience.

Fincham resigned in 2007 after an investigation into footage from a documentary that misrepresented the Queen.

A trailer for the A Year with the Queen documentary was edited out of sequence, and Mr Fincham wrongly told the press it showed the monarch walking out of a photo session "in a huff".

A BBC report has blamed "misjudgments, poor practice and ineffective systems" .

The programme was made by production company RDF Media, whose chief creative officer Stephen Lambert also quit following the affair.

Yesterday, Fincham said he had been warned by one BBC department - its press office - that the BBC's own news operation was trying to track him down to interrogate him about the affair.

He remembered how this time last year, attending the TV festival, he had been grilled by Jeremy Vine, the BBC presenter, for more than an hour for one media session.

"A week or so earlier I had the bizarre experience of being tipped off by one part of the BBC, the press department, that it would be a good idea to stay with friends that night because another part of the BBC, the news department, were sending a crew to camp outside my house.

He added: "'Crowngate', of course, got mixed up with the whole trust in television crisis which broke over the industry last year and which has continued lapping at the sands .

"It's been a grim and unsavoury episode in television's history; money taken from viewers on false pretences, competition winners faked, awards given to the wrong people, the interests of viewers ignored of over-ruled."

In the trailer, photographer Annie Leibovitz is seen telling the Queen she would look better without her tiara because "the Garter robe is so. . ." Before she could say anything else, the Queen replied, pointing to what she was wearing: "Less dressy. What do you think this is?"

The clip then cut to the Queen walking through Buckingham Palace, saying to her lady-in-waiting "I'm not changing anything. I've had enough dressing like this, thank you very much", implying she had stormed off .

But, in fact, that clip was filmed before the exchange over the tiara.

Fincham addressed the question of whether television, and ITV in particular, should be governed by the rules of regulators Ofcom, in particular the guidelines for public sector broadcasting .

He said the rules of Ofcom are a medicine that "may be as likely to kill it as cure it".

Meanwhile, Sharon Osbourne last night debated the worth of celebrity reality shows at the Edinburgh International Televison Festival.

She revealed that she will soon be dancing on television - although she was asked, but turned down, a chance this year to appear on Strictly Come Dancing, she is likely to be a participant next year.

Osbourne, who stood down as a judge on the X Factor, said she loves the show .

"I would love to do it, but it didn't feel right this year - hopefully next year I will be on it, " she said.

Osbourne joined in a panel debate on the subject along with publicist Max Clifford and ormer editor of Heat magazine, Mark Frith .

Clifford revealed he had been contacted by the management of Chris Hoy, the triple-gold winning cyclist.

"I am happy to represent any of the Olympic stars - in fact I am meeting his manager in an hour, " he said. "I am glad to - because he has real talent. And I love talent."

Originally published by Newsquest Media Group.

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