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Last Updated: Friday, 12 January 2007, 01:41 GMT
No major shocks from Dyke minutes
By Torin Douglas
BBC media correspondent

Greg Dyke
Mr Dyke left the BBC after the Hutton Report
For those who have read Greg Dyke's book Inside Story, there are few surprises in the minutes of the BBC governors' meetings.

They largely confirm his account of the dramatic day - 28 January 2004 - which began with the leak of the Hutton Report in the Sun and ended with the resignations of the chairman and director-general of the BBC.

In fact the Dyke book reveals more, naming the governors who backed him and those who effectively sacked him.

The minutes of the board meeting don't go that far, though they do confirm the sequence of events and the reasons the governors pressed him to go.

Withdrew resignation offer

They show that after the resignation of the chairman Gavyn Davies, Mr Dyke asked for the board's full support and was "shattered" when he didn't get it.

They quote - but don't attribute - governors' comments that Mr Dyke would have been a lame-duck director general, and that his relationship with the Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell was poor.

In the end, the governors were unanimous in their view that "reversing their decision and reinstating Greg Dyke as DG was simply untenable"

They confirm that Mr Dyke then withdrew his offer to resign.

For several hours that night there was a tussle: the "mood of the board was to dismiss Greg if necessary" but a resignation was seen as being in all parties' best interests.

By 1020 GMT he was ready to talk terms and negotiations continued until he decided to go home at 0130 GMT.

Greg Dyke
BBC governors said Greg Dyke was a "lame duck" and had to go

The director-general announced his resignation at lunchtime the following day.

Ironically, the more interesting revelations are in the minutes of a second board meeting, a week later, which the BBC chose to publish, even though it was not obliged to do so under the Freedom of Information ruling.

They show that Mr Dyke contacted the BBC governors, asking to be reinstated.

In his book, he describes this proposal as "tongue-in-cheek" but the minutes show it was taken seriously and discussed fully.

Meeting 'disquiet'

In the end, the governors were unanimous in their view that "reversing their decision and reinstating Greg Dyke as DG was simply untenable".

One governor said it would look ridiculous and would create anarchy in the organisation.

The minutes of the second meeting also register "disquiet" over Mr Dyke's claim that he had agreed a strategy with Gavyn Davies and one governor, Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, under which she had promised to support him if the chairman resigned.

She denied being party to such an understanding, but "suggested that Gavyn and Greg may have reached an agreement of their own... and had implicitly assumed that she concurred with it".

Such details may be fascinating to those pursuing a doctorate in Hutton studies, but there are no really significant revelations.

Gavyn Davies
Chairman Gavyn Davies resigned alongside Mr Dyke

Yet the mere fact that the BBC has published the minutes marks a victory for Freedom of Information (FOI) campaigners, including the Guardian, which fought this case.

The BBC had been resisting publication for two years, saying that its board would be inhibited in future discussions if members knew their comments would be published.

It was supported by the Freedom of Information Commissioner.

But the Tribunal overruled him, saying there was a strong public interest in knowing why the governors had decided to press for Mr Dyke's resignation.

Important precedent

Has this set a precedent for those seeking minutes of other BBC board meetings? Probably not, given that the Tribunal was told that the Hutton inquiry was "a unique and highly unusual" occurrence.

But it will certainly be cited by those seeking further revelations from public bodies.

Ironically, the BBC finds itself on both sides of the argument on the issue of freedom of information.

As a public body, it is constantly being asked to reveal details of the way it is run, many of which it prefers to keep to itself.

Yet as a news organisation, it is fighting government plans to limit the material made public under the FOI legislation.

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