Sir Ian McKellen: Governments are 'nervous' of the BBC

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Sir Ian McKellenImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Sir Ian said: "If you reduce the BBC, you reduce Britain's effectiveness"

Actor Sir Ian McKellen has defended the BBC against its critics, saying: "We all think we could run it better than it runs itself".

His comments follow a government green paper, which asks if the corporation should be "narrower" and "cheaper".

Sir Ian said: "Governments are always nervous about the BBC because the BBC is a very good source of truth.

"That's the principle of the licence fee, it's nothing to do with the government."

The green paper will form the basis of "a root and branch review" of the BBC and its activities.

Published last week, it sets out fundamental questions about the overall purpose of the BBC, its regulation and how it is financed.

Some proposals include replacing the licence fee or introducing a subscription top up service.

The BBC Trust has announced it will carry out its "biggest ever consultation" to ensure the public's voice will be heard in the review process.

Image caption,
One of McKellen's first BBC appearances was in a 1965 production of David Copperfield

"We don't have a vote when it comes to the BBC," said Sir Ian. "But if we did, I would vote to keep it, not as it is, but as it could be.

"Part of that is about making its finances secure. I think that's the responsibility of the government and I hope it does just that."

Sir Ian McKellen is currently promoting his new film Mr Holmes, in which he plays an ageing Sherlock Holmes.

He first starred in a BBC production, The Indian Tales of Rudyard Kipling, in 1963.

Speaking to BBC Arabic's Alternative Cinema Show, he said: "I know from working and travelling abroad a great deal, that for many people the BBC is Britain and if you reduce the BBC, you reduce Britain's effectiveness.

"We all have a view on the BBC, we all think we could run it better than it runs itself."

The full interview with Sir Ian McKellen will be broadcast on BBC Arabic in the autumn.