The boss of the production company which makes The Great British Bake Off says that he ‘felt bullied’ by ‘arrogant’ BBC executives while making the show for BBC One.
Love Productions was slammed in 2016 when it took the format to Channel 4 in a £75 million deal, many viewers accusing the company of being greedy.
It lost its hosts Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, as well as judge Mary Berry, in the move, with fans complaining that lengthy ad breaks would ruin the series.
But Richard McKerrow, who runs the company, has accused BBC executives of being ‘bullies’, adding that the company had ‘no choice’ but to take the show to another channel.
Speaking at an event at Leeds Trinity University, he said: “We really had no choice. I think Bake Off would have died if we hadn’t moved.
“Unfortunately broadcasters bully independent producers and the BBC is the biggest bully of all and I don’t think that is healthy for the industry. I felt bullied.
“There is an arrogance that the BBC has that is not good for the industry.”
He added that the company’s relationship with the BBC soured three years before it left the corporation, after it accused it of copying the format for some of its other in house shows, notably the short-lived hairdressing contest show Hair on BBC3, and The Big Painting Challenge.
The row, and a resulting court case, were said to have caused a ‘catastrophic breakdown’ in negotiations over the Bake Off’s future on the BBC.
“I say we simply did it to protect the format. We took it to the one place which would protect the format, Channel 4, which is another public service broadcaster,” McKerrow added.
“It kept it free to air and I trusted them and knew they would look after it.”
He added that the company’s relationship with Channel 4 is ‘fantastic’.
While the BBC has declined to comment on the remarks, a BBC source told MailOnline that it was ‘nonsense’ that a deal could not be done, adding: “We made a very strong offer, everyone understands why the production company made the choice they made.”
While fans of the show have taken to new hosts Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding, as well as new judge Prue Leith, it has suffered a significant drop off in viewers.
This year’s final was watched by around 7.5 million people, while 14 million tuned in to the 2016 final on the BBC.