The man who created the BBC with its defining ethos: to educate, inform and entertain. He prevented the government taking direct control of the corporation during the General Strike and ensured its political independence. He inspired the BBC's efforts to "lift the people's sights" with improving talks and music.
Sir Hugh Greene 1960-1968
The DG who freed the BBC from its hidebound attitude to the establishment. He presided over That was the Week that Was, the launch of BBC2 and what Mary Whitehouse described as the BBC's "moral collapse". He was disliked by Harold Wilson who thought the BBC should be more subservient to the Government.
Alasdair Milne 1982-1986
The unfortunate DG who ran the corporation while Thatcher was running the country. After battling with the Government over
coverage of the miners' strike, the Panorama programme titled "Maggie's Militant Tendency" and the Real Lives interview with an
alleged IRA member, Milne was made to resign.
Sir Michael Checkland 1987-1992
The accountant, with no programme-making experience, brought in to sharpen up the BBC. Many inside thought this the end for the corporation they loved.
Efficiencies became the name of the game and more than 4,000 jobs were cut, but the corporation survived the Thatcher era without being privatised.
Sir John Birt 1992-2000
John Birt was instrumental in seeing the BBC through the challenge of a political threat to its existence and a huge increase in competition. Through more redundancies and efficiencies, and refocusing on distinctive programmes, he convinced the Government to renew the BBC's charter in 1996.