Artistic community urges protection of BBC

Stage and screen talent pen open letter of support

LONDON -- It has endured months of criticism from politicians and rivals alike, but now 40 of the U.K.'s top stage and screen talent have called on voters to protect the BBC on election day, May 6.

Actors including John Barrowman, Peter Capaldi, Romola Garai, Stephen Mangan as well as writer Stephen Merchant and director Stephen Frears have urged voters to consider the significance of the BBC and vote against attempts to undermine it.

"Over the past few months, leading opposition politicians have suggested that a new government should prioritize cutting the BBC's license fee. Others have shown a cavalier attitude towards the BBC's independence," they wrote in an open letter to the Observer newspaper.

"The BBC is the most important cultural organization in Britain and an indispensable part of our society, admired and envied throughout the world."

Other signatories to the letter include Terry Jones, Eddie Izzard, Meera Syal, High Bonneville, Harriet Walter and Catherine Tate.

The BBC has been warned by the opposition Conservative party that its governing body, the BBC Trust, will be axed by an incoming Conservative administration.

The pubcaster has also come under sustained attack from commercial rivals including BSkyB chairman James Murdoch, over its scope and scale, which is currently the subject of a strategic review by director general Mark Thompson.

Concerns have been felt in the artistic community, where the fear is that diminished funding will lead to less creative risk, fewer ground-breaking projects and an increase in lower cost ratings-chasing fare.

"Attacking it [the BBC] to serve the interests of its commercial rivals would be short-sighted and threatens to devalue not just the BBC itself, but our culture as a whole. We urge people to think about the consequences of their vote for this cherished part of our national life."