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26/04/2001

DYKE ANNOUNCES THAT THE BBC MUST CHANGE

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IT is harder for public sector organisations to embrace change than it is for profit and loss companies, but the BBC must change or become irrelevant, said BBC Director General Greg Dyke.
The BBC were taking a risk by planning new digital channels at this time, but he thought it was a risk well worth taking, he told the Institute of Directors (IoD).
In a speech to the IoD’s annual convention at the Royal Albert Hall in London, Dyke said: "There is, I believe, a real danger that publicly funded organisations err on the side of conservatism and do not take the calculated risks they ought if they want to improve the services they deliver to the public.
"They fear public and press criticism if the decision turns out to be the wrong one, whereas the reward for taking the right decision is usually silence."
There were no profits to prove the risk had been a success, he said.
The BBC had been attacked for moving the BBC One nightly television news too quickly and competitively - but six months on, the ratings were up, he said.
"I’m still waiting for the politicians who criticised our decision to move the news to ring and say: “You were right, we were wrong."
Dyke said the BBC’s plans to spend more on BBC One drama, sport and regional broadcasting, and to launch new digital channels later this year aimed to convince licence fee payers that the BBC remained relevant in a digital world. The BBC awaits the Government’s decision on whether to approve the plans.
The opportunity to expand programming would come in part from £200 million extra a year which will be released by savings on overheads. Dyke has set targets to cut BBC overheads from 24 per cent of income to 15 per cent by 2004.
"Our plans for improving our existing services and starting a limited number of new services mean spending money we are not certain we have got. It means assuming we will hit our overhead savings targets.
"By going ahead now we are undoubtedly taking a risk. It could rebound on us. But if the BBC are to be special in the new media age - just as they have been special for the past 70 years; if the BBC are to be part of the glue that binds Britain together when the nation itself is changing rapidly; if they are to continue to be the organisation which people turn to at moments of national celebration or national mourning; if through their programming they are to reflect all aspects of Britain in the first decade of the 21st century, then it is a risk well worth taking, and one we will take." (CD)

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