Yesterday's full-page advertisement in the Daily Telegraph in support of Greg Dyke and paid for by 10'000 BBC “employees, presenters, reporters and contributors” was an impressive testament to the affection and respect felt for Mr Dyke during his four years as Director General. I do not mean to belittle the sincerity or importance of this gesture by saying that it is easy to understand how most employees of the BBC would welcome Greg Dyke's laid-back and chummy approach after the years of John Birt's aloof management. But the advertisement goes beyond any such a simplification. It says that “Greg Dyke stood for brave, independent and rigorous BBC journalism in the search for truth. We are resolute that the BBC should not step back from its determination to investigate the facts in pursuit of the truth. Through his passion and integrity Greg inspired us to make programmes of the highest quality and creativity...we are determined to maintain his achievements and his vision for an independent organisation that serves the public above all else.” Since his appointment in 1999 I have criticised Greg Dyke because of his pre-occupation with audience ratings and its result in lower quality programmes. Nonetheless it is difficult not to be impressed by the tributes to his commitment to “independent and rigorous journalism” in yesterday's advertisement. Clearly this advertisement is not only a retrospective vote of confidence in a departed leader; it is also a warning to the government that the BBC's independence should not be tampered with either in the appointment of a new chairman and director general or in the process of renewing its charter in 2006. Naturally, there are changes that should be considered in the charter but editorial freedom and institutional independence must be non-negotiable.


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