Like a conquering hero, Greg Dyke has swept away the Stalinist props of the last regime in a single, dramatic coup.
His is a populist message that cannot fail to please. He will heal the hideous self-inflicted wounds created by the Birtist internal market and purge the creative Temple of latter-day Moneylenders in this case assorted faceless accountants, bureaucrats, marketing folk and management consultants who allegedly minister to no other purpose than their own perpetuation. With the overheads saved he will build a new Jerusalem, where quality programming is the watchword.
This is fine rhetoric, which plays well to most audiences. Politicians will rejoice that Dyke is taking his obligations to the licence-paying public seriously. The middle classes will hail a return to more congenial programmes (although Dyke is in fact a confirmed populist). And programme makers will rightly celebrate their manumission. All of which should conveniently mask the unsavoury business of handing out so many P45s.
But Dykeism is a lot more than rhetoric. Spent judiciously, the extra money saved (£1bn over seven years) could do great damage to the BBC’s competitors. ITV is looking weak in peak-time, where its programming has recently failed to impress. How Westminster would laugh if Dyke gave it a real drubbing with some sharp drama and entertainment. Then there’s sport, where Dyke could play a useful holding game, tackling the FA Cup rights while others flounder in the mud of the Premier League mÃÂªlée.
So much for Dyke the communicator and Dyke the strategist. What about the tactician? By all accounts he is much more interested in the big idea than the detail, though whether this is a weakness or strength remains to be seen. Dyke has moved fast to create a new streamlined executive committee, and artfully delegated the task of pinpointing redundancies to the new team over the next two months. But has he picked the right people to implement his vision? There is a disturbingly familiar ring to many of the top team names, though admittedly some of the titles assigned to them are more eccentric.
Readers will have been intrigued, for example, to discover that Matthew Bannister, a news presenter and producer by background, has landed the top job in marketing. At first sight, this appears a throwback to the early Nineties when, in the inimitable words of a former BBC controller, “marketing was a leaflet, love”. That is far from the case today, when marketing and professional marketers permeate every department of the BBC. Indeed, Bannister admits as much when he says: “We’re all in marketing at the BBC”. Which raises the interesting question: why were the two principal contributors to that sea change, Sue Farr and Jane Frost (unlike Bannister, both professional marketers), overlooked for the top post?
Bannister, a bright and resourceful BBC insider, played a major though hardly exclusive role in turning around Radio One. He has yet to prove that was not a one-hit wonder. In the meantime, he will have his work cut out reassuring a baffled and frightened marketing department.