DUBLIN (AP) — Rarely has an awards show begun on such a rousing note.
Sunday's annual British Academy Television Awards, Britain's equivalent of the Emmys, gave the night's first prize for best drama series to BBC's "Wolf Hall." The director, Peter Kosminsky, seized the moment for a celebrity call to arms against a Conservative government keen to shift taxpayers' money away from the publicly funded broadcaster.
Kosminsky said Culture Secretary John Whittingdale was only half-joking when he quipped this week that the demise of the BBC was "a tempting prospect."
To rising cheers, the director declared that the quality of British broadcasting was "the envy of the world and we should stand up and fight for it! Not let it go by default. If we don't, blink and it will be gone."
Kosminsky warned that making TV production increasingly dependent on commercial interests would produce "a broadcasting landscape where the only determinant of whether something gets made is whether it's likely to line the pockets of its shareholders. No! No! It is time for us to stand up and say no to this dangerous nonsense."
The London crowd literally did, giving Kosminsky a thunderous standing ovation to the visible awe of presenters Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick.
"Wolf Hall," a six-part historical drama depicting Tudor revolutionary Thomas Cromwell in the 16th-century court of Henry VIII, received eight Emmy nominations and won the Golden Globe for best miniseries.
Its Emmy-nominated star, veteran stage actor Mark Rylance, told reporters backstage that he owed his Oscar-winning performance as a Russian intelligence agent in Steven Spielberg's 2015 film "Bridge of Spies" to Kosminsky's 17 weeks of guidance on the set of "Wolf Hall."
"I don't think I would have acted it so well if it was not for 'Wolf Hall,'" said Rylance, who also took home Sunday's award for best actor for his portrayal of Cromwell. "Peter taught me so much confidence about thinking in front of the camera, and not displaying and showing things, and I will always be grateful."