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Greg Dyke's advice to the incoming BBC director general

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19 June 2012

Here’s some worldly advice to the candidates vying to become the next director general of the BBC from the corporation’s former boss Greg Dyke.

Five candidates are being interviewed this month for the job by BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten and vice-chair Diane Coyle. They are: Ofcom chief exec Ed Richards, BBC Vision director George Entwistle, BBC director of news Helen Boaden, BBC chief operating officer Caroline Thomson, and director of BBC Audio and Music Tim Davie.

Greg Dyke, who has just turned 65 and is chair of the BFI, remains a highly regarded former BBC director general by BBC staff, eight years after he left.

He won’t be drawn on who should be the next DG, but he does offer this advice on the qualities that the candidates to replace Mark Thompson need. “If you don’t sleep very well, don’t apply. Never go on holiday, because every time you go away, stuff happens. Understand that crises at the BBC come out of nowhere. You think you are having a good week and then – bang! – it hits you.”

But his final point is perhaps the most important, all the more so in light of the manner of his abrupt departure from the BBC. “Understand that you are never, in the end, going to be popular with politicians. That is not the job – so don’t even try. Be fair, but the job of the BBC is to understand and question politicians of all parties but particularly the government of the day. That is the job, so they are never going to love you.”

Dyke adds:  “Most governments get into power thinking the BBC is alright, but once they are in power they don’t. The Tories and Lib Dems are having a rough time in government and, I suspect that they are calling the BBC everything [under the sun] because that is what they do. It is about killing the messenger.”

He hopes that the Levenson enquiry will lead to changes in the media landscape, saying it should lead to the creation of a “proper regulatory structure for the press.” He points out that all broadcasters are already regulated by Ofcom, without great harm to their effectiveness.

Dyke also thinks that BSkyB would be far better off without the involvement of the Murdochs – and seems to enjoy their current difficulties. “As someone who has campaigned against the Murdochs for 20 years as I have – certainly in my time at the BBC I did things specifically to stop Sky from the digital television world [Dkye championed the launch of Sky competitor Freeview]– this is a great moment.”

He calls BSkyB a very impressive organisation, but questions why it hasn’t become a British international media player. “Well, the reason is that BSkyB, which has the money to be that, can’t be that because of the Murdochs. They would do far better to be freed up of the Murdochs – then they could be the big international player.”

Dyke’s comments are taken from an interview with him in the June issue of Televisual


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