Sue Perkins ‘goes rogue’, attacking culture secretary over BBC cuts

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Sue Perkins said she “went rogue”, attacking the culture secretary John Whittingdale over possible BBC funding cuts.

The Great British Bake Off presenter described the exchange, which took place at a dinner full of senior TV execs and presenters at the Guardian Edinburgh international television festival on Wednesday, as “feisty” and “full and frank”.

She attacked Mr Whittingdale at the dinner, also attended by her girlfriend Anna Richardson, over proposed 20% cuts to the BBC’s funding.

Speaking to the Guardian since the incident, Perkins said: “I’m a passionate person, there’s a lot going on underneath my carousel of blazers, a cauldron of sensitivity and emotion.

“I went to this dinner and John was opposite and I took it as my opportunity, albeit after one or two glasses of wine, to engage with him about the government and the BBC. We had a lively exchange during which many views were contested and I said my piece. It was a very well intentioned but pretty fiery exchange.

“I said you will take my points on board otherwise I will kiss you into an horrific submission and with that he shut up sharpish.”

Going on, Perkins said she went on until she “had bored the living daylights out of everyone else at the table and we looked up to find everyone else had cleared their plates”.

She told the Guardian that she argued with Mr Whittingdale, saying the government acted as though it owned the BBC, as opposed to being owned by “90-something percent of the general public who pay the licence fee and are its stakeholders”.

“I was speaking to John not really as an employee of the BBC but as a stakeholder,” she added. “I think all stakeholders should start to engage with the government and say, hang on, do we want this? What I don’t want is a fait accompli because I think that would be the worst thing to happen to broadcasting in living memory.

She added: “To give John credit I think he is now open to speaking to people who sometimes work for the BBC and so I am going to carry on this discussion with him further. We will have another exchange. There may be alcohol.”

Mr Whittingdale said he was pleased to have debate with Perkins, saying he hoped the debate would continue at a later date.

“She’s a feisty lady, I enjoyed talking to her… Unfortunately we were cut short, I hope there will be another opportunity for it to continue.”

“Part of my reason for coming to Edinburgh was to put right what I considered to be quite widespread misconceptions of what my review is all about,” he continued.

“I was therefore happy to have a chance to talk to her and explain my position. We had a very enjoyable debate and I hope it’s one we can continue.”

The BBC faces a 20% funding cut, as it took on the task of paying for free TV licence fees for over 75s, which costs £750m.

The Thick of It director and producer Armando Iannucci, spoke at the event, and also laid into ministers, saying they were trying to kill off the BBC.

He also attacked Ruper Murdoch, and said that the Government’s treatment of the BBC was like a “doctor urging his patient to consider the benefits of assisted suicide”.

Perkins and co-presenter Mel Giedroyc last week revealed how they nearly spent a night in the cells after pulling a prank on Paul Hollywood.

A chat show featuring Mel and Sue was cut by ITV last month after failing to attract high enough viewer numbers – despite the pair’s success on the Great British Bake Off, which has seen viewer numbers as high as 10m.