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BBC gets a controversial new boss

LONDON, June 25: Greg Dyke, a self-made television millionaire who forged his reputation with a talking rat, was appointed yesterday to h...

LONDON, June 25: Greg Dyke, a self-made television millionaire who forged his reputation with a talking rat, was appointed yesterday to head the BBC, one of the most prestigious broadcasting jobs in the world.

But his success sparked an immediate political row because of his support for Britain’s ruling Labour party, to which he has reportedly donated 50,000 pounds. Opposition Conservative leader William Hague expressed his “concerns” and said he was requesting a meeting with Dyke as soon as he takes up his job of director-general.

That will not be until April next year, when Dyke will officially take over the broadcasting monolith from current director-general Sir John Birt. The BBC board of governors said they believed Dyke had “the skills, flair and experience” to lead the corporation. He had assured them during the application process that he would sever all links with the Labour party and commercial television interests, they added. The governors said they had been impressed by Dyke’s commitmentto public service broadcasting and were confident he would be able to protect the BBC’s “independence and reputation for impartiality”.

The controversy arose when, in an unprecedented move before the board had made up Its mind, Hague wrote to them to warn against appointing Dyke, saying his record of support for Labour made him “totally unacceptable”.Labour, for its part, insisted it had played no role in the process. The BBC announcement came a day after its annual general meeting, at which governors turned in a warts-and-all report urging television bosses to review the main BBC channel’s adherence to its public service role.

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It needed to strengthen entertainment and comedy and bring current affairs and arts programmes back into prime time, they said. Dyke, the son of an insurance salesman, made his reputation when, in order to rescue ailing morning television company TV-AM, he dumped its heavyweight presenters and brought in a talking rat. His action was scorned at the time, but he was proved rightwhen viewing figures soared. And his unerring instinct for knowing what viewers wanted — populist shows and soap operas — continued to serve him well, making him a millionaire.

Vow to remain impartial

LONDON: Newly-appointed BBC Chief Greg Dyke, nominated amid controversy over his ties with the ruling Labour Party, vowed on Friday to remain impartial and safeguard the independence of the corporation.

Dyke, selected on Thursday to take over as director general of the British Broadcasting Corporation, sought to ease concern over his appointment by saying he had quit the Labour Party and would defend the BBC’s reputation for honesty, fairness and independence.“I have resigned from the Labour Party,” Dyke told GMTV.

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The BBC “is an outstanding journalistic and programme-making organisation,” he said. “It has a reputation for honesty, fairness, and most of all independence, and I am determined to safeguard and protect that”. BBC chairman Christopher Bland said on Friday Dyke was “the man webelieve is the right man to lead the BBC into the new millennium.”

First published on: 26-06-1999 at 12:00:00 am
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