Director general latest casualty of Hutton inquiry
LONDON — BBC director general Greg Dyke ankled Thursday as the pubcaster attempts to find a way out of what is unquestionably its biggest ever internal crisis.
Dyke’s departure comes 24 hours after the resignation of BBC chairman Gavyn Davies following the publication of the judicial inquiry into the death of weapons expert Dr. David Kelly that accused the BBC of “defective” editorial processes.
Resignation of Dyke, who was also editor-in-chief of the BBC, was inevitable once Judge James Hutton published his devastating attack on the broadcaster and its failures resulting from Radio Four “Today” reporter Andrew Gilligan’s report that the government had lied to justify the war in Iraq.
Dyke, who was appointed in June 1999 following a successful career in commercial TV, tendered his resignation Wednesday night before a lengthy meeting of the BBC board of governors Thursday.
Surrounded by reporters outside Broadcasting House in central London, and with shocked staff in tears, Dyke said he hoped his decision would help end the crisis.
“I hope this draws a line under this,” he told reporters. “I’m going. Gavyn has gone. My going provides an opportunity for a new start.”
More than 1,000 BBC staffers in offices up and down the U.K. walked out in protest at Dyke’s resignation as a backlash against the Hutton report’s findings, which vindicated Tony Blair’s government, gathered in the country’s press and media.
Asked about the backlash, Dyke said: “We got very badly criticized by the Hutton report. Whether that’s fair or not is for another time. But if you are that badly criticized, it is right for the director general to go.
“During this whole affair, my sole aim as director general of the BBC has been to defend editorial independence and act in the public interest,” he said.
Deputy director general Mark Byford, recently appointed to oversee a new complaint process designed to shore up the BBC’s journalistic credibility in an attempt to preempt criticism from Hutton, will take over as acting director general.
Byford, a highly experienced and respected BBC journalist who also heads the World Service, will be one of the favorites to land the top job pending the appointment of a new chairman.
Another candidate expected to apply to succeed Dyke is former BBC high-flyer Mark Thompson, who left the pubcaster a little over two years ago to become CEO at Channel 4.