Board draws up rapid-action plan to find a successor for Dyke

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The shortlist for the new director general of the BBC is to be swiftly drawn up before the appointment of the corporation's new chairman.

The BBC's board of governors drew up a plan of rapid action after a special meeting at Broadcasting House in London yesterday.

The governors said in a prepared statement that they had asked Stephen Dando, the BBC's director of human resources, to start the process for the appointment of the successor to Greg Dyke, who resigned as director general last week.

The governors said: "The board wishes to progress this appointment without delay in order that the final stages of the selection process can be made as soon as possible after the chairman is appointed."

Headhunting firms are to be appointed and advertisements are expected to appear in newspapers and within the BBC early next week.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has promised to fill the vacant BBC chairman's position by the middle of April. Gavyn Davies, the previous incumbent, resigned with Mr Dyke in the wake of Lord Hutton's report into the death of David Kelly. A BBC spokeswoman said yesterday that the strategy of immediately drawing up the shortlist was not designed to restrict the incoming chairman. She said: "The job spec for director general is well known; it's not as if it's a new post. The governors are always involved in the appointment process."

Mark Byford, the acting director general and favourite to succeed Mr Dyke, told the governors that his objective was to provide calm and strong leadership of the BBC in the weeks ahead.

The statement ended with a message of defiance from the governors, who, it has been suggested, should cease to act as the regulators of the corporation. It said: "The board of governors ... will never allow any external body to interfere with the BBC's crucial independence."

Meanwhile, the National Union of Journalists organised a walkout yesterday in conjunction with the broadcasting union Bectu, with "several thousand" protesting outside newsrooms nationwide.

"We have lost the best director general we ever had," said one female journalist.

Luke Crawley, Bectu's head official at the BBC, said: "The wrong kind of director general from our point of view is a director general who is not prepared to stand up for the independence of the BBC. Greg Dyke did that. Whoever replaces him must be prepared to do the same."

The big gripe at White City was the BBC board of governors' "grovelling" apology after the publication of the Hutton report. "We felt let down by the governors. I couldn't believe it,'' said one male reporter who asked not to be named.

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