Dyke 'bet the farm' on accuracy of report and could lose his stake

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Indy Politics

Using agricultural analogies may not be the most obvious way of describing the plight of Greg Dyke, the streetwise and savvy director general of the BBC.

But according to the corporation's flagship current affairs programme, Panorama, Mr Dyke is the man who "bet the farm" on the reputation of one of Britain's most venerated institutions on the veracity of a single "shaky" news story.

On Wednesday, with the publication of Lord Hutton's report into the death of the scientist Dr David Kelly, farmer Dyke's chickens may come home to roost. The report represents the single biggest threat to the director general's position since he walked into the BBC in 2000.

In the worst case scenario, the BBC's reporting - and Mr Dyke's strident defence of it - could be seen as so reckless as to have damaged on the image of the organisation.

There are a number of critics who would like to see the DG toppled. "The buck stops with Mr Dyke, as director general," said one of the BBC's fiercest critics, The Daily Telegraph, at the conclusion of the Hutton inquiry.

"It was up to him to ascertain whether he was on solid ground to fight a duel with Downing Street. By failing to do so, he showed that he is not doing his job as editor-in-chief of the most prestigious broadcasting network in the world."

The fundamental charge against Mr Dyke is that despite having taken the title "editor-in-chief" he failed to gain a fundamental understanding of Andrew Gilligan's story on the the Today programme and its implications, while publicly defending the BBC's journalism against government criticism.

As one broadcasting executive said: "It goes to show the aggrandisement of calling yourself editor-in-chief when you cannot possibly have a grasp of the details when putting out 24 hours of news a day." In his final submission to the inquiry, the Government's barrister, Jonathan Sumption QC, argued that the bullish position adopted by Mr Dyke and his senior colleagues was the reason why the Kelly affair developed as it did.

"What does seem clear is that the main problem always was that the BBC never acknowledged how serious the allegations which they had broadcast really were," he said.

"The BBC seem to have regarded this as a routine piece of political mud-slinging, chatter in the air. It seems to have been thought that the BBC could shoot off its fireworks and then steal away." Despite Mr Dyke's public refusal to acknowledge the BBC's journalistic shortcomings, Panorama claimed that he was privately in a state of panic.

"Have we effing got this right," he allegedly asked a senior colleague. "Because if we haven't we'd better go back on it now." When he came to give evidence in September, Mr Dyke was back-pedalling.

He admitted it took him "several weeks" before he listen to the report. He also acknowledged that he had rejected Government criticism of the piece before having investigated the matter.

But the fact that Mr Dyke has made admissions of shortcomings and subjected himself to the scrutiny of Panorama means that any attack on the BBC by Lord Hutton is unlikely to force the director general - who enjoys a close relationship with the BBC chairman Gavyn Davies - to give up his £464,000-a-year job.

One television industry source outside the BBC said: "I would be very surprised if anyone even called for his resignation, apart from The Sun."