Dyke wants more open, friendly culture at BBC

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The Independent Online
GREG DYKE, the new director general of the BBC, arrives at the corporation today even though Sir John Birt will remain director general officially until next April, and will also retain his office at Broadcasting House. For the next five months Mr Dyke will formally be deputy director general.

Under that rather curious scenario, nevertheless, he will begin to bring a new ethos to the corporation. One senior BBC executive said yesterday: "Greg has already been visiting us and has let it be known that he wants the place to be much more open, friendly and welcoming to creative talent. The impersonal style of Sir John is at an end.

"Greg came into my office, put his feet up on my desk and asked me where I grew up. That sort of thing hasn't been happening here for years."

Mr Dyke will begin by wrestling with policy and programming. A senior source said yesterday: "He is certainly intent on simplifying the organisation. He regards it as a lumbering giant."

First among his targets is the policy and planning directorate. "You can expect to see a paring down," said an associate of Mr Dyke. The new director general has attacked the number of consultants and public relations people employed by the BBC. Sir John's devotion to consultants is certain not to be replicated by Mr Dyke.

Mr Dyke will consider merging the broadcast and corporate sides of the BBC, as he does not see that there need be a distinction between making policy about broadcasting, and putting it on the screen and airwaves.

He is said to be alarmed at the decline in sport covered by the BBC in recent years. With the rights for Premier League football up for renegotiation, it is certain that the BBC will table a joint bid with one of the digital or satellite companies to keep the stake it has in best domestic action.

He would like to keep a little distance from the digital debate, as it is seen as Sir John's province. But Mr Dyke will, of necessity, have to re-emphasise the case for a digital levy on viewers subscribing to digital channels, as recommended in the Davies report, commissioned by the Government. Tomorrow the BBC gives its response to the Davies report.

The commercial broadcasters, among whose number Mr Dyke was until today, are vigorously opposing the levy. And Chris Smith, the Culture, Media and Sport Secretary has also not yet been fully convinced of it. Despite his reputation as the man who gave the nation Roland Rat, Mr Dyke intends to ally himself with the call by Mr Smith last week to chase quality, not ratings.

He is said to be concerned by the lack of good situation comedies and wants BBC1 to have a more distinctive identity. But rumours that the job of the BBC1 controller, Peter Salmon, might be on the line is understood to be incorrect.

One of the most urgent matters that Mr Dyke will have to address is the state of the BBC World Service, and constant complaints from staff about budget cuts.

Even on his first morning Mr Dyke will get a taste of low morale among staff. A new survey has revealed that BBC regional staff believe the only thing they have to look forward to is lunch breaks and redundancy. When asked what they enjoyed about their job, many replied "nothing".

The survey was organised by staff working at the BBC's television and radio centre in Newcastle upon Tyne. It revealed that more than 60 per cent felt unmotivated and unhappy and that morale was getting worse.

The survey was sent out to 216 staff of BBC North and 141 were returned.

A BBC spokesman said that managers had not seen the survey but they had a regular dialogue with staff and "we will be taking the same open approach to any issues raised".

Leading article, Review, page 3

Janet Street-Porter, Review, page 5


Morale: Dyke believes in people management, in contrast to Sir John Birt who was remote from staff. Dyke will spend any spare moments dropping in on departments and motivating staff.

Sport: Dyke wants to raise the profile of BBC Sport. He knows that having at least recorded rights to the Premier League is a notable score over ITV. And he will attempt to prolong the current deal with BSkyB.

Staffing: Dyke is known to want to cut the policy and planning apparatchiks and end the overuse of highly paid consultants. He may well merge the corporate and broadcast wings.

Digital: Dyke will reiterate the case for a digital levy on viewers, even though it will be a little awkward for him as he was until today a part of the commercial sector opposing it.

Programming: He will stress the need for quality, public-service broadcasting, while not wanting to seem too hands-on editorially. He also wants better sitcoms.