Greg Dyke reveals all at NABS Tuesday Club talk

Words by Zoë Osmond, chief executive officer, NABS

I may be deeply biased, but the NABS Partner Card talks always deliver rich content which, as if often the case with Chatham House Rule, can at times be wonderfully indiscreet.

We may be an industry of youth, but there are occasions when there is nothing better than a perspective delivered from long experience and a lifetime of stories.  Watching Greg Dyke being questioned by Raymond Snoddy at the last NABS Partner Card talk made for superb viewing as the camaraderie between the two kept an audience of 100, average age 27, hugely engaged. It was as Mark Howe from Google said, “a night of quality TV in front of our eyes.”

As you’d expect of one of the UK’s most outspoken and best-loved media personalities, Greg was fantastically entertaining. He was characteristically indiscreet on almost every count and as the two friends (buddies for over 40 years and counting) shared a bottle of wine on the ‘stage’, the audience lapped up stories of times at the BBC and thoughts on Leveson and Murdoch among others.

Between the entertainment however, Greg had some serious points to share: let us not forget that here was someone, he told us, who had sat on a park bench at the age of 29 effectively going nowhere, but who within a decade had one of the top broadcasting jobs in the UK. How, asked Snoddy, “did the short, bald man with a speech impediment get to rise so high and leave such a legacy at the BBC?”

The message from Dyke was that it takes hope and with it, a determination to succeed. His guide for success within an organisation is to take your team with you; move from a culture of fear to one of ‘getting the staff on your side’. He explained how he went on the road, talking to as many BBC workers as possible, asking them how they would improve the service for the public and how he, Greg Dyke, DG of the BBC could make their lives better. “People don’t do well when they think their boss will shout at them,” he said.  His biggest achievement at the BBC was he felt, leaving behind a happier place. But at the same time he had no time for moaners. “My stance was always, if you don’t like it, you know where the door is.”

To the surprise of many in the audience, Dyke revealed himself in favour of statutory regulation of the British Press: “Broadcasting has had it for 50 years and is the better for it. They still get to expose stories.”

Dyke also did his best to bring diversity to the Beeb and his comment about the Corporation being ‘hideously white’ made it on to the front cover of the Daily Mail. He made a fair point when he claimed that advertising continues to suffer even today from a lack of diversity.

Dyke was clearly well-loved by those at the BBC; the fact that when he was forced to resign, 4,000 BBC workers walked out in protest proves the point.

“Did you have any regrets about your departure from the BBC?” asked Snoddy. “Are you still bitter?”

“Give it a few more years”, said Dyke. “I would have liked a few CEO roles but I’d upset the government so much that I was more or less unemployable. Being a CEO is the best job in the world; it’s about having a great idea in the bath and then being able to get it done. It’s a really fun job and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.”

It’s insights such as these into what has been an extraordinarily colourful career to date that made attendees feel a sense of privilege to be there. And those who shared the lift with Dyke and Snoddy down to the ground floor got even more juicy tidbits!

The next NABS event is a Tuesday Club talk with Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive, WPP, who will be interviewed by Campaign’s editor, Danny Rogers.

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