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Friday, 28 January, 2000, 17:10 GMT
Dyke's daunting challenge

Greg Dyke Greg Dyke faces some big decisions


By BBC media correspondent Torin Douglas

The first challenge for Greg Dyke will be living up to people's heightened expectations of what he can achieve.

He was widely welcomed on his appointment - both inside and outside the BBC - as someone in a very different mould from his predecessor Sir John Birt.

Many expect him not only to inspire programme-makers and cut out layers of bureaucracy, but to dispense with all management consultants, win back major sports events and even improve the food in the BBC canteens.


Greg Dyke Dyke will address the digital future
In other words, to work miracles. But, as he has remarked about the battle for sports rights, he doesn't have a magic wand.

And sport is only one of a dozen areas crying out for extra investment at a time when the Government is unlikely to give the BBC as much money as it says it needs to fulfil the Birt regime's ambitions for the multi-channel, on-line digital future. A decision on the licence-fee settlement is due in February.

Ambitions

It is possible that the Dyke regime's ambitions may differ from those of Sir John Birt. He has said he agrees with the BBC's overall strategy for the digital age, launching new interactive TV and on-line services for school children and other groups. But it would be surprising if his spending priorities were exactly the same as his predecessor's.



The Dyke regime's ambitions may differ from those of Birt
Torin Douglas
In the new budget round, BBC1, the network which attracts most licence-payers, may do proportionately better than News 24, the digital channel which is a prime focus of criticism among the commercial television lobby and MPs.

Politically sensitive

Critics of John Birt say he invested too much in new digital developments, leaving too little for the established television and radio networks. The issue has been made politically sensitive because of the proposal, currently being considered by the Government, that viewers with digital television should pay a supplementary licence fee to help pay for the BBC digital services.

But Greg Dyke is also expected to release more money for programmes by streamlining the BBC's bureaucracy and reducing the use of management consultants.


DG Greg Dyke will cut bureaucracy
Though John Birt undoubtedly cut the BBC's costs - he says programme costs were halved in real terms during the 90s - he's been criticised for introducing new layers of management and making the organisation more complex than it needed to be.

Restructuring

A wide-ranging shake-up of the BBC's structure is expected, though not straight away. The departure of Sir John Birt has come two months earlier than planned, because he was awarded a peerage in the New Year Honours, and Mr Dyke has not yet completed his review of the existing structure.

In the next few days, he will give the first indication of his plans. On Sunday he will be interviewed on BBC1's Breakfast With Frost and on Monday he will speak to BBC staff and answer their questions.


Already there are suggestions that Dyke's honeymoon period may be shorter than expected
Torin Douglas
He is expected to be given a warm welcome. But already there are suggestions that his honeymoon period may be shorter than expected.

Controversy

There has been controversy over the fact that when he joined the BBC in November he still held a large shareholding in Granada, one of the Corporation's biggest rivals. He had agreed with the BBC governors that he would sell them by April - when he was originally due to take over as director-general. He has since sold the shares, saying he didn't want the controversy to dominate his early days in the job.

The Times has now claimed that some of his property interests are not compatible with his new job - though Mr Dyke and the BBC chairman Sir Christopher Bland insist that all his shareholdings were declared and approved by the board of governors.

The issue of Mr Dyke's donations to the Labour Party - which were known about, and taken into account, when he was appointed - has been revived by the Guardian columnist Hugo Young.

As Greg Dyke is learning, the post of BBC director-general is one of the most high-profile jobs in the country. And the challenges that face him in the 21st Century are every bit as daunting as those which taxed his predecessor in the 20th.

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See also:
20 Jan 00 |  UK
Dyke sells Granada shares
16 Jan 00 |  Business
BBC 'knew of Dyke's shares'
01 Nov 99 |  Entertainment
Dyke launches BBC review
26 Jan 00 |  UK
BBC never stronger - Birt
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