In a barnstorming Royal Television Society Christmas lecture, Greg Dyke, gave a curt assessment of the state of the UK television industry and the challenges facing the major players.
On the media generally, he painted a picture of 2009 as the “year of the great train crash” for those relying on advertising income and predicted a continual shift of advertising revenue to on-line. He believes that a the key challenge will be for news purveyors to monetise the Internet and added that “I hope News International’s bold move in charging on the internet works and pays off.”
On the BBC; he championed the BBC’s pivotal role in UK cultural life but that the BBC must work harder to retain its’ independent position and the public’s trust. He argued that the BBC’s system of governance (The BBC Trust) was flawed from the outset and that the roles of regulator and manager should be separated. He added that this would also provide a board and Chairman better able to support the Director General in championing the BBC’s cause.
Providing insight on the BBC’s Jonathan Ross “Sachsgate” debacle he indicated that OFCOM had only received 2 complaints – none on the subject of Andrew Sachs – and that jealous BBC news journalists had fanned the flames.
On the ITV, he described the board as “corporate clowns” who must take responsibility for the decline in value of the business. New Chairman Archie Norman was hailed as a credible candidate and that his key challenges must be to change the board, inspire the creative community and create and support a decent pay tv and internet strategy.
On Five, he predicted that they have little chance of surviving as an independent entity and added that it is “just a matter of who buys it or who it merges with and when”.
On Channel 4, he questioned the axing of Chief Executive Andy Duncan by a Chairman who was also about to move on. With the demise of big money maker ‘Big Brother’, he believes that 4’s challenge is to refresh the schedule and “work out what Channel 4 is and what it’s for in the new world”. As way forward he proposed that Channel 4’s unique “youth” remit might be best served by a new generation of CEO and that costs should be reduced back in line with revenue.
And finally he described James Murdoch’s assertion that the BBC operated as a state sponsored media was “laughable” and “self serving”. ” That has to be a joke coming from someone running an organisation where every single one of its 175 newspapers around the world supported the war in Iraq. Where’s the independence there?”
Given Mr. Dyke’s role as Chairman of the Conservative Party’s ‘Creative Industries’ Review his views may also give some clues as to the issues and opprtunities that may appear in that review.