BBC chiefs campaign to block Dyke

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BBC EXECUTIVES are waging a campaign to prevent Greg Dyke from becoming the corporation's next director-general, friends of the TV chief said yesterday.

The chairman of Pearson Television has been the victim of "an establishment rubbishing campaign, most of it from within the ranks of the BBC," Adam Boulton, the political editor of Sky News, said. "They have been portraying Greg Dyke as some outrageous figure on the make, which is just not true."

Another friend of Mr Dyke claimed that opposition was coming from "people at senior to middle levels in the BBC, who are petrified at the changes an outsider would bring".

Mr Boulton, along with other industry luminaries including the broadcasters Melvyn Bragg and Trevor Phillips, has written a protest letter.

Published in The Times yesterday it lambasts critics of Mr Dyke, who have suggested that his pounds 50,000 donation to the Labour Party should disqualify him from the top BBC job.

"We find it astonishing that some commentators have suggested that he might be susceptible to political pressure... This unfairly questions the integrity and honesty of a very singular man," the letter said.

Mr Boulton dismissed rumours that The Times' campaign against Mr Dyke is the media mogul Rupert Murdoch's revenge for Mr Dyke's attempts to block Sky's bid for Manchester United.

Instead, said Mr Boulton, establishment figures "thought Greg Dyke would hang his head in shame - would say to himself, `ah, now I see it in the pages of The Times; I see I am a sleazy little rat' - well, blow that". He said he did not agree with Mr Dyke's vision of the BBC, but felt that the Pearson boss should not be the victim of a "smear campaign".

The campaign for the director-general's post is becoming as nasty as any political election. But Mr Dyke, according tosupporters, attracts special venom because he is "outside the establishment".

He started his working life as a trainee at Marks and Spencer, where he was sacked for breaking biscuits.

He then took a degree at York University, and progressed to a job on local papers in west London - all a sharp contrast to the Oxbridge BBC types who are sometimes seen as being "delivered in swaddling clothes to Broadcasting House".

He is often criticised as bringing such low-brow products as Roland Rat, Gladiators and Blind Date to British television.

Clive Jones, the chief executive of Carlton Television, was the first signatory to the letter published in The Times; not, he said, because of a BBC campaign against Mr Dyke, but because "the claims being made that Greg has a bad reputation as a journalist and programmemaker are simply untrue and should be rebutted by the people who worked with him".

n ITV confirmed yesterday that its boss, Richard Eyre, has not been interviewed for the director-general post. Mr Eyre had been tipped as a leading contender.