Greg Dyke on Broadcasting

Despite the spin, the BBC's direction will be unchanged

For those, like me, who are strong supporters of the BBC and believe it is an important force for good in British society, the Secretary of State Tessa Jowell did a pretty effective job with her Green Paper on the future of the BBC.

For those, like me, who are strong supporters of the BBC and believe it is an important force for good in British society, the Secretary of State Tessa Jowell did a pretty effective job with her Green Paper on the future of the BBC.

On the most important issues she came down fairly and squarely on the side of the corporation. She decided quite clearly that it should continue to be funded by the licence fee for another decade, that the licence fee income should all go to the BBC, and that the it should continue with all of its existing services on television, radio and the internet. In fact, it was so much game, set and match to the BBC that you have to ask what all the fuss was about in the first place.

This is not to say that the Green Paper has everything right. There are some pretty odd things buried in the document; like how in the future the BBC will only be able to buy the US movies which other terrestrial broadcasters don't want - not a recommendation that will go down well with the American studios (including Mr Murdoch's Fox), nor with the British public, who will be denied the best movies on free TV at Christmas.

Of course, as always, the whole thing was surrounded by spin and public relations efforts from both the Government and the BBC. Michael Grade expressed disappointment that the governors were being scrapped, when no such thing was really happening, and Tessa Jowell complained about derivative programming without naming any; these are just two examples.

Wouldn't it be nice if something done by this Government wasn't drowned in spin? Why couldn't Tessa have just got up and said what she really believes: that the BBC is a great British invention, that all over the world people admire it and envy Britain for having it and that her Government wanted it to get stronger not weaker in the digital age; and then sat down. But I suppose all that spin was inevitable as Jowell had to make herself look tough and the BBC had to make it look like it was disappointed, which is why the story about "BBC governors being scrapped" was leaked in advance.

The one area which is still a complete mess, however is the Secretary of State's proposal on how the BBC is governed. The proposals are a mess because it is hard to see how they meet the aims of a more accountable BBC. The governors would disappear to be replaced by a BBC trust, which is not really a trust at all, and the BBC would be run by an executive board which, for the first time, would have non-executive directors as members.

In these circumstances all the real power would be with the executive board, and yet the proposal is that it would be chaired by the director general. But he works for the chairman of the trust, who would be Michael Grade, so how would it be different? And what would happen when the executive board - with non-executives - disagrees with the trust board? Where would that leave the director general? Would he take orders from his board, the trust board or Michael Grade?

It has the potential to be totally confusing, and it is very difficult to see how all this would give us the clear structural separation between delivery and oversight, which is what the Green Paper says the Government wants.

But no matter, because it probably won't happen anyway. Governance is the one significant area where the Liberals and Tories are in agreement, along with the Burns committee and Ofcom. All want a much clearer separation between delivery and oversight, and, as a result, the proposals will probably be changed drastically when they hit the Lords, where those two parties have a majority. This is even more likely to happen if Downing Street doesn't demonstrably support the current proposal. It has been suggested it may not. But all of this is detail, because power in the BBC has always been with the director general, the executive and the staff anyway. The important thing is that the Government is committed to the licence fee, committed to a properly funded BBC, and committed to the BBC continuing to broadcast all of its current services.

For that we should be grateful to Tessa Jowell.

Sofa so bad for GMTV's Holmes

I have read with great interest in the popular press the range of reasons Eamonn Holmes has given for why he's decided it's time to leave GMTV. It now seems that he didn't like the place much, even though he was there for more than a decade, and he didn't think there was enough serious content on the programme. In saying this Eamonn has upset quite a lot of his GMTV colleagues. They were surprised to read that he had wanted to do more journalistic presenting on location, as they had never noticed that Eamonn being very enthusiastic to go on the road. There are also doubts about his version of the events that led to his departure.

What I hear is that it was contract renegotiation time again and, as usual, Eamonn's people came in with enormous wage demands. This is not an unusual tactic and most agents use it at some time or another; they threaten that their artist will walk if he or she is not paid vast amounts.

In the past this has worked for Eamonn, but this time the GMTV management decided they wouldn't play. Eamonn was already very expensive and only worked 30-odd weeks of the year. So they told Eamonn's people that, in the circumstances, they wouldn't renew his contract. Eamonn was on his way out.

This fits with the strategy I've always used when dealing with "talent" - just keep telling them they are wonderful until you can't stand them any longer. Then it's time for them to go.

media@independent.co.uk

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