'Americanisation' of British TV Damned by BBC's Dyke

26 November 2003

In a situation akin to Daniel in the lion's den, BBC director-general Greg Dyke told a New York audience that TV is too important to be left to the market alone.

In the Big Apple to collect an International Emmy Directorate award for outstanding services to broadcasting, Dyke bit the hand that honoured him by slamming the 'Americanisation' of British television, arguing that the medium is not "just another commodity" like Starbucks or Coca Cola".

A strong public broadcaster, Dyke argued, could help counter this trend by exerting a positive influence on the wider culture. "Television is only different from coffee or Coke if we recognise that fact. If we treat TV like these things, it will become like them. We end up with nothing more than a briefly enjoyable experience devoid of any lasting value," he opined.

Broadcasting is special and plays a crucial role in people's lives. "It tells us what's happening in the world, helps us form opinions and informs national debates. It connects people through shared experience and reflects our personal interests," Dyke said.

But the BBC, along with the entire UK TV industry, faces threats from globalisation and -- in particular -- 'Americanisation', fears Dyke.

Britain's recently enacted Communications Act, allied to the massive size of the US market, now allows US companies to acquire any of the UK's commercial broadcasters, a scenario that could jeopardize a television landscape mirroring national culture and values.

"Programming," Dyke warned, "would evolve into a commodity rather than something of intrinsic value and unbiased; challenging news and current affairs would be the first to suffer."

Nor, Dyke told his audience (many of whom were senior US network TV executives), should the BBC be seen as an entity separate and isolated from the rest of the UK broadcasting scene.

"A strong, publicly-funded broadcaster at the heart of the British TV industry has a positive influence far beyond the confines of our own channels and services," he contended. The BBC is essential as a catalyst for competition, quality and creativity.

Data sourced from: BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff