Edinburgh fest swinging

Ex-BBC topper Birt to lecture at opening event

LONDON — More than 1,600 industryites will dissect everything from plastic surgery on TV to the future of the BBC during the 30th Edinburgh Intl. Television Festival, to be held Aug. 26-28.

“I am delighted that we can announce such a strong line-up,” says Tim Hincks, chief creative officer of Endemol U.K. and chair of this year’s gabfest in the Scottish capital. “Every issue from sex to reality TV, to the problems of political journalism, to the future for content on mobile phones will be covered. And there’s live ballroom dancing.”

The event will bow with the flagship MacTaggart lecture delivered by John Birt, the ex-BBC topper reborn as an adviser to Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Birt is expected to argue that in a digital future the license fee, now used exclusively to fund BBC services, should be made partly available to private webs.

Ricky Gervais and his co-writer, Stephen Merchant, will discuss the impact of his new sitcom, “Extras,” while festival master classes will be hosted by writer and director Stephen Poliakoff, and documentary maker Adam Curtis.

“Question Time,” a take on the BBC’s long-running Q&A format, will give the audience a chance to quiz industry policymakers including former BBC director general Greg Dyke. It will be chaired by broadcaster Andrew Neil.

A special version of BBC1 hit, “Strictly Come Dancing,” transferred to the U.S. as “Dancing With the Stars,” is to be staged featuring a cast of TV toppers.

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