10:09 27 January 2010
Prince Charles has criticised ITV for "abandoning" 'The South Bank show' after 32 years on the air, claiming that the broadcaster's decision to axe the show was "a sad loss" to the nation.
Presenter Melvyn Bragg was honoured with a lifetime achievement prize at the final South Bank Awards ceremony, at which the Prince paid tribute via video.
Recalling the infamous drink-fuelled interview between Lord Bragg and Francis Bacon, the Prince said: "Many will find it hard to forget the memory of Lord Bragg stoically asking his more or less sober questions of Francis Bacon as all around him swam deeper and deeper into wine-filled oblivion.
"Now, oblivion is not the place for the arts and so I cannot say I'm encouraged as mainstream television abandons such a unique and special commitment.
"Civilisation needs all the help it can get, more so today than ever before. But now it loses one of its greatest champions. It is a sad loss.
"I'm so sorry I can't be with you to celebrate not just recent artistic achievement but, alas, the very end of one of the most important beacons of the arts this country has been lucky enough to enjoy.
"'The South Bank Show' has been much admired along with Melvyn Bragg's steadfast determination to force so many serious artists and their work into the midst of the popular agenda.
"The programme remains without rival and a long time ago it rightly became an important contribution to the vibrancy of this country's culture. The range of films has been truly breathtaking."
As he presented an award, comedian Billy Connolly, was applauded as he said: "How sad that 'The South Bank Show' is going the way of all flesh. Without arts programmes there's only reality TV, and reality TV needs the arts to show it what reality is."
Lord Bragg was handed the final South Bank Show award, for Outstanding Achievement. He had launched the show in 1978.
Backstage, the 70-year-old host said that he was "baffled" by ITV's reasoning. He said: "I don't think it was a financial consideration. I'm baffled why and how it was taken off the air."
'The South Bank Show' was the sole arts series on ITV, with last episode being broadcast in December. ITV is now concentrating on the more popular reality and entertainment formats.
The ceremony will be broadcast on January 31, and will feature all the criticism of ITV intact. Lord Bragg said: "I am the editor... it won't be censored."
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