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Greg Dyke, Director General of the BBC
Greg Dyke, Director General of the BBC
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: GREG DYKE DIRECTOR GENERAL, BBC FEBRUARY 10TH, 2002

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST: He's just starting his third year as DG and he's making his third annual visit with us this morning, Greg Dyke, good morning Greg.

GREG DYKE: Good morning David.

DAVID FROST: In the, in your speech to the staff and so on this week you were able to paint a pretty positive picture of what had gone on, at the same time you said in the Indie on Friday that the first year had been a bit miserable and you enjoyed the second year more, is that right?

GREG DYKE: Yeah I think that's right, I mean if you go into a new organisation it's strange to you, you've got to find out about it and you've got to get to know people and the first year was quite difficult, the second year's been very good.

DAVID FROST: And what about the challenge that came up yesterday, I mean you had to work out editorially the right way in the 21st century to, to cover an event like the death of Princess Margaret?

GREG DYKE: Yeah we have procedures and processes and it went pretty smoothly really, I mean we have a process for what would happen at the death of Princess Margaret and that's what happened from eight o'clock yesterday morning.

DAVID FROST: Yes, until 10 on one channel and until 9 on the other?

GREG DYKE: Yes we went to two channels immediately, BBC One and BBC Two as well as News 24 and then we came, we put, we switched the children's programming from BBC One to BBC Two for an hour, but that was, it all worked fine I thought.

DAVID FROST: Yes and in terms of judging Royal coverage, does Royal coverage need to change at all do you think?

GREG DYKE: Well I think it has changed, I mean you only had to listen to some of the, or watch some of the clips over the years of BBC programming to realise how much it has changed over 30, 40 years, I mean listen to the announcement about Princess Margaret's decision not to marry Group Captain Townsend and you looked at it and it sounded like from another era didn't it, it could have been a hundred years ago. So I think it has changed, what we have to remember is there is a large part of our audience who still, to whom it mattered yesterday and we have to make sure that we serve that part of the audience.

DAVID FROST: Yes of course as you say people will remember Group Captain Townsend, that drama, not true of all the audience obviously by any means?

GREG DYKE: Well it's one of my earliest recollections, I mean I must have been seven or eight and it was one of my earliest recollections was that, that announcement that evening.

DAVID FROST: A sad, a sad sacrifice. Tell me this week you made a very good answer to you, why you don't think BBC One's dumbing down and you, you listed a whole set of programmes that made the case, but what about this letter from the, from the Chairmen of both parties getting together to write, they said they were worried about the fundamental down-grading of political coverage and so on, what's your answer to that?

GREG DYKE: Well what we last autumn set about looking again at our political coverage and saying how do we, how shall we cover politics in the current era. Now there was a difficulty, fewer people are watching political programming and I think that's reflected in the numbers that are voting in elections. Now it's not our job at the BBC to get people to vote but I think it is our job to try to engage people in the politics and the issues of the day and I, we have a particular problem once you get below the age of 50, you know, we used to have an under-30s problem, then an under-40s problem, now we have an under-50s problem in the sense that large numbers of younger people, and you notice that I now say younger people are under 50, I used to say under 40. Large numbers of younger people are not engaged in the political process at all and we therefore have been looking at our political programming and saying how should we change it. We don't intend to do less, we don't intend to spend less money but I think we're going to look at how, how can we make it more engaging and some of it more interesting. Now the reaction of some of the politicians and the two chairmen of the two parties is to say you're dumbing down, actually we're doing quite the opposite, we're looking and saying how do we engage more people in political programming.

DAVID FROST: But not less coverage overall?

GREG DYKE: We haven't taken any decisions yet about what we will do but I think it is important, I mean this isn't only a British thing, this is I think a European phenomenon and probably world-wide phenomenon in the vast democracies but we, it is a challenge for the BBC.

DAVID FROST: What about sport, that's another challenge for the BBC, would there ever be a day when you could afford to get the Premiership live on BBC?

GREG DYKE: No I don't think so, I mean if you look, Sky are paying something like 6 million per match for football at the moment and that's way beyond our resources and I don't think we can justify, I mean we paid not far off that for England beating Germany 5-1 which I, was worth every penny but I, that was a special game, I don't think we could justify that for every game, I think the advent of pay television inevitably meant that there was going to be some sport that went on to pay. What's interesting is we're now getting a lot of the sporting authorities want to get the sports back on to BBC One or ITV, back on to main terrestrial television because they want coverage.

DAVID FROST: Could you, could you do it with pay-per-view, could you have some programmes from the Premiership on free to air and someone pay per view?

GREG DYKE: No I don't think so, I think what matters about the BBC is that it's, it's available to everybody and I think it has to be available to everybody. We're starting new digital services but we're only starting them on the basis that some time in the next five to ten years they will be available to everybody.

DAVID FROST: Do you think that digital though, with the take up being slow so far, but when the government talked about by the year 2010 that there would be nine, there had to be 95 per cent of people who got digital, they'll never hit that figure will they?

GREG DYKE: Well I think at some stage the government has got to, if the government wishes the whole of the country to go digital at some stage it's got to say that's the date it's going to happen and plan how to get there.

DAVID FROST: What about ITV, what would you have done differently if you were running ITV in the last couple of years rather than the BBC?

GREG DYKE: Well I think ITV's had a difficult time but that's largely because of a sharp decline, again worldwide, in advertising revenue. So I'm not sure, I mean there's, there are individual decisions that you wouldn't have taken but I'm sure we've taken some decisions at the BBC that we, if we had the choice again we wouldn't have taken. So I think their, their major problem is about just a decline in advertising revenue.

DAVID FROST: And what about the licence fee, 2006 the next one, do you think there will be a licence fee still there in 10 years from now, 20 years from now?

GREG DYKE: Yes I think, I think that the importance of the BBC in this society will grow over the next decade because I think in a fragmenting media market where there are more and more channels, if you had, if you want British television and British programming the market alone won't fund it and that's the purpose of the BBC.

DAVID FROST: Gerald Kaufman says that fantasy, he says that I don't believe in taxing people to watch entertainment?

GREG DYKE: Well I'm not sure that's, it was interesting and Gerald you know who has got a wonderful ability to grab the headlines and every time his committee meets. If you actually listened to the rest of his members of his committee the day we were there they didn't say any such thing and I think four or five of the MPs started off by thanking the BBC for the service it provided to their constituents.

DAVID FROST: Can I have one of your cut the crap cards?

GREG DYKE: I bought one, I bought one specially for you David, I thought you might find it quite useful in some interviews.

DAVID FROST: I think so, I think I shall be handing these out every other week.

GREG DYKE: I bought it specially for you.

DAVID FROST: And then what if, what if the person who's given a yellow card and doesn't cut the crap, have you got any red cards?

GREG DYKE: No I don't think we have red cards, I mean obviously it's quite lighthearted stuff but it's got a point and the point is in all big organisations there is too much paperwork, too many meetings and too much bureaucracy and the BBC is no different to any other and what we're trying to do is cut, cut it back so that people can spend more time actually delivering the services and making the programmes.

DAVID FROST: This is a, what does the Guardian say, this is a 27.

GREG DYKE: It's the 27th most offensive word in Britain I think. And it makes you wonder what 25 and 26 are really.

DAVID FROST: Yeah, yeah, absolutely, and what about your future Greg, the Indie said that you're on a one-year rolling contract that could carry on for another six years?

GREG DYKE: Well I could stay until I'm 60 according to the contract, yes, whether, well that will depend upon the governors of the BBC and me between us, we will decide, but at the moment I'm fine, I'm happy and I hope they are.

DAVID FROST: I'm sure they are, you, you'd know it if they weren't wouldn't you and.

GREG DYKE: I'm not sure I'm that sensitive David, I'm not sure.

DAVID FROST: Well thank you very much indeed, Greg, for being with us this morning, I haven't needed the card at all and I know I won't need the card either for Estelle Morris because she's coming on next.

END


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