Dyke fails to reassure Hague over `anti-Tory bias' at BBC

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The Independent Online
GREG DYKE, director-general- designate of the BBC, failed to convince William Hague, the Tory leader, that his appointment would not lead to bias against the party.

After talks last night the Tory chairman, Michael Ancram, said a gulf remained between the Opposition and BBC over Mr Dyke's appointment, in spite of his decision to cut his links with Labour. "We made it clear there is a problem caused by Greg Dyke's appointment ... We said that problem remains unresolved ... We asked them to look at ways of resolving it. We look to them to come back with suggestions."

The Conservatives, who have told the BBC they are hiring a private agency to monitor for anti-Tory bias on the BBC, put suggestions to the BBC but refused to comment on what these were.

Sir Christopher Bland, chairman of the BBC, and Sir John Birt, the present director-general, went with Mr Dyke to what was obviously a tense meeting at Conservative Central Office.

Pursued by one of his own film crews, Mr Dyke refused to say anything on the steps of Tory headquarters after the meeting but in a press release said: "I welcome the opportunity to repeat the assurances I have given that I believe passionately in the independence of the BBC. As director- general I will ensure that the BBC continues to act fairly and impartially and resist political pressures from any side."

The BBC outlined the arrangements in place for ensuring impartiality, including obligations under the charter, the role of the governors as trustees of the public interest, the role of the director-general as editor- in-chief, responsibilities of programme-makers under the BBC guidelines and compliance with editorial policy and the complaints system.

Sir Christopher read out a statement describing it as a "constructive meeting".

It was arranged last week at the suggestion of Sir Christopher when he rang Mr Hague with advance notice of the BBC's intention to appoint Mr Dyke with effect from 1 April next year.