BBC Boss Slams Government Policy on Foreign ITV Ownership

15 January 2003

Greg Dyke, director-general of the state-owned BBC, on Tuesday gnashed at the hand that feeds him.

Dyke, a multi-millionaire commercial TV tycoon before his Damascene conversion to public service broadcasting, criticized the Blair administration’s plan to axe restrictions on ownership of Britain's commercial TV network by non-European Union countries [curious that no-one likes to say it out loud: ‘the USA’ ].

The so-called liberalization will be enacted in the government’s Communications Bill and Dyke warns that acquisition of the ITV network by US TV companies could prove a stony road for UK broadcasting.

Interviewed for the Financial Times Creative Business supplement, Dyke opined: “Well, I'm not a great fan of the legislation that's going through, particularly over ITV. I think it's being pushed by people who don't understand US media companies. You don't buy companies to invest, you buy companies to invest less.”

However, he is far from averse to the BBC forming a closer relationship with America’s ABC News should the latter’s merger negotiations with CNN reach stalemate. The BBC already works with ABC on an international news-gathering project.

As to the government’s creation of media supra-regulator Ofcom, Dyke is underwhelmed: “I'm not sure that the idea of bringing regulation of telephony and programme content together has any rationale. I think it was dreamed up in that wonderful period of the dotcom boom when you really believed conversion [convergence?] was going to happen tomorrow.”

Cynics, however, wonder whether Dyke’s Ofcom reservations are fuelled by concern that it will hold sway over the BBC’s output in matters of taste and decency. To say nothing of the small but vociferous lobby of commercial broadcasters urging the government to place the BBC entirely under Ofcom’s remit, rather than (as currently) that of its own board of governors.

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