BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
N Ireland
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Friday, 25 August, 2000, 11:11 GMT 12:11 UK
Greg Dyke: The popular touch
Greg Dyke: The bookies' favourite
Greg Dyke: "Elevated working class"
Greg Dyke started as the bookies' favourite for the BBC's top job, despite a vigorous campaign against him because of his close ties to the Labour Party.

Critics questioned publicly whether someone so closely associated with the governing party could be relied on to defend the BBC's impartiality. Mr Dyke is known to have contributed at least 50,000 to Labour.

The protest peaked in June 1999 when William Hague wrote to the BBC's board of governors warning Mr Dyke would be an unacceptable director general because of his close Labour links.

But defenders pointed to his track record in current affairs.

Mr Dyke's gift for popular television programming was never in doubt when he went for one of the most important jobs in broadcasting.

It is an ability that has saw him triumph in the commercial sector where he was chairman and chief executive of Pearson Television - something that made him a multi-millionaire.

But his ascent to the upper ranks of the TV establishment has not been an orthodox one.

Sacked from M&S

Oxbridge colleges do not figure on his CV.

In fact he struggled at school and left education not knowing what he wanted to do.

After being sacked as a management trainee with Marks and Spencer, he decided to try his luck with a local newspaper.

Not for the last time his cheeky, persuasive charm and simmering confidence served him well.

He got the job and progressed as a reporter.

The experience led him to seek a university education and eventually into the world of television with London Weekend.

He worked as a researcher and producer on seminal programmes like Weekend World and the Six O'Clock Show.

But it was in his next job, with TV-am, that Mr Dyke really made his mark.
Roland Rat: Greg Dyke's original claim to fame

By promoting Roland Rat, the wise-cracking, nerdy glove puppet, he was widely credited with rescuing the ailing channel from bankruptcy.

However, the move also forged a reputation for dumbing-down television. The Sun routinely refers to him as "Roland Rat's Dad".

Yet by the end of the 1980s, Mr Dyke was back to LWT as director of programmes, pledging to take ITV upmarket by making it "more like Sainsbury's than the Co-op".

Populist vision

His achievements included populist programmes such as A Touch of Frost and London's Burning.

The lower-middle class, or, as Mr Dyke would have it "elevated working class", boy from west London appeared unassailable, progressing to managing director of LWT.

There he worked alongside the then-chairman Sir Christopher Bland, who is now chairman of the BBC governors.

BBC Chairman Sir Christopher Bland
Sir Christopher has said of him: "Television is a mass medium and Greg understands that. You have to have a mass audience if you are going to succeed."

The two became millionaires when the company was bought by Granada, Mr Dyke pocketing 8m alone.

At Pearson, he presided over a mini-empire which included Thames TV, Grundy International, the makers of Neighbours, and a stake in Channel 5.

The assumption that he must be a lightweight (reinforced by his blokeish London accent and approachable personality) is quite wrong, experts say.

They point to him being a heavyweight businessman with an impressive track record.

But he also known to be impatient with bureaucracy and the slowness of decision-making at the BBC - something that he has already publicy complained about.

When he arrived at the BBC, many staff expected to find a man who would inspire their loyalty after the turbulence of the Birt years.

So far, he still has them on his side - though no one is doubting that there may be some choppy waters ahead.

Special Report on the future of the BBC

BBC News and Sport




Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |