BBC Minutes published

The BBC sent me the full minutes to the BBC Governors’ meeting in which Greg Dyke resigned. They have also voluntarily published the minutes from a subsequent meeting in February 2004 related to the fallout from the Hutton report.

You can now read the minutes for yourself and judge whether the BBC Governors were justified in spending license-fee money to fight public disclosure for three years:

Minutes from January 2004 Meeting.

Minutes from February 2004 Meeting.

My own opinion is that the Governors fought so hard against disclosure purely out of self interest. The minutes show them in a poor light: coming across as panic-driven, cowardly, and shallowly self interested, thinking more about their personal careers than the survival of the BBC. Throughout, they express worry that they might have to resign. God forbid some faceless bureaucrats whom nobody knows should get the chop. Gavyn Davies is not enough. Rather than resign themselves, they toss Greg Dyke to the wolves of Whitehall.

The meeting seemed to go downhill once Richard Ryder took the chair after Mr Davies’ resignation. Greg Dyke was asked to leave and the Board discussed how it ‘was in the interests of the organisation that the Board stay in place.’ Of course it was! Richard Ryder then presented the Governors with the pros and cons of keeping Mr Dyke.

For:

  • Gavyn Davies’ resignation had lanced the boil.
  • The organisation would need leadership continuity.
  • Greg has leadership skills in abundance, and he would be needed now more than ever to inspire the organisation.
  • The new chairman should have a say in whether Greg continues as DG.

Against:

  • The BBC would face calls that the wrong man had resigned, which would leave the DG a lame duck.
  • Greg’s stock in Whitehall was very low, and his relationship with the Secretary of State is very poor.
  • Greg’s internal authority would be compromised by recent events.
  • Mark Byford was unaffected by Hutton.

The Board made a number of incorrect assumptions about the effects of Greg Dyke staying in place as Director General. They believed the press would hound the Corporation if Greg stayed on (instead the Press and the public saw Hutton as a whitewash). The Board heard from several members of the BBC who believed it would be a mistake to lose both the Director General and the Chairman in one go. Nevertheless the board decided that the external pressures outweighed internal considerations and demanded that Dyke leave.

The minutes show that Dyke withdrew his offer to resign, and that Mr Ryder and Dame Pauline Neville-Jones took several hours to persuade him to go. His requests to speak to the Board were refused.

The February minutes are interesting for the revelation that Mr Dyke contacted the BBC governors the following week to ask for his job back. They also reveal that Richard Ryder held a meeting with the culture secretary, Tessa Jowell, on the day he issued the abject apology on behalf of the BBC. An apology now considered a humiliating capitulation to the Government but one supported, we now know, by the entire Board of Governors. With friends like these, the BBC needs no enemies.

The Guardian has published its own report on the publication of the minutes as has the BBC Press Office and BBC News.

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