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New BBC Director General Named

June 24, 1999

LONDON (AP) _ The head of an independent television company will become the new director general of the British Broadcasting Corp., the organization’s board of governors said Thursday.

The governors said Greg Dyke, a millionaire TV producer who once donated money to Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Labor Party, had ``the skills, flair and experience″ to lead the taxpayer-funded BBC into the 21st century.

The director general is responsible for the overall output of the BBC, which has two national TV channels, four satellite TV channels, five national radio stations and several dozen local radio stations.

The British institution, affectionately known as ``the Beeb,″ also broadcasts around the globe through its TV and radio World Service.

British newspapers have reported that Dyke donated $80,000 to Labor and once ran himself as a Labor candidate in local elections.

Opposition Conservative Party leader William Hague attacked Dyke’s appointment, saying ``the appointment of Mr. Dyke, who has given recent and substantial financial support to the Labor Party, may be prejudicial to the BBC’s reputation and to its obligations in this regard under its charter.″

The BBC’s charter states that the organization must remain politically independent. Unlike the role of BBC chairman, the director general’s job is not a political appointment. The governors said in the statement that Dyke would sever all links to the Labor Party.

Blair’s Downing Street office said the prime minister had played no part in the appointment.

Dyke, currently head of the independent TV company Pearson, is most famous for turning around the fortunes of an ailing breakfast TV station by introducing a puppet rat called Roland.

British newspapers and commentators have been questioning the future of the BBC, which is largely funded by popular subscription. Some critics have accused the BBC of dumbing down its standards in the search for ratings.

The current director general, Sir John Birt, who is stepping down in April, has been criticized for his determination to push the BBC into a new age of digital TV and for spending large sums of money on the BBC’s Internet service and 24-hour rolling TV news channel.

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