Magazine article The Spectator

My Vision for the BBC

Magazine article The Spectator

My Vision for the BBC

Article excerpt

Greg Dyke, the new director-general, outlines his plans for the airwaves

IT is appropriate that my first speech as a BBC employee should be The Spectator Lecture because in the mass of articles written about me at the time of my appointment my favourite was the one in this magazine. It was written by Peregrine Worsthorne and his basic argument was that jobs like director-general of the BBC should not be allocated on merit or in any sort of open competition. Instead, he believed they should be given to people, and I quote, `with blue blood and noble quarterings' and, if not, to people with `the right old-school tie and a good Oxbridge degree in Greats'.

Clearly, I don't belong in either category and, as a result, Sir Peregrine argued that my appointment meant it was time for elitists to unite and to stop, and I quote again, `the cultural slide which is turning Britain into a society comfortable only for morons to live in'. It's good to feel so welcome here tonight.

Personally, I don't believe that it has ever been the aim and purpose of the BBC to only satisfy the demands of a small, selfappointed intellectual and cultural elite, and it certainly shouldn't be as we enter the new millennium. The BBC's ambition must be to be there for all of the nation. That is what public-service broadcasting means. I believe it is just as important for the BBC to search for quality in popular programming as it is in the remainder of its output.

Nearly 70 years ago Lord Reith defined the purpose of the BBC as `to inform, to entertain and to educate'. These remain our aims, but here I would like to talk about the BBC's role as an educator. I see this as one of the priorities for my period as director-general. I want to bring education into the BBC's front line, and I am determined we will do so.

Education is now the most critical lever in shaping the prosperity and stability of individuals, companies and the UK as a whole. Following a decade of reform, first Conservative and then Labour, performance is improving, whether you measure it by literacy and numeracy standards, examination results in secondary schools, or participation in further and higher education. But, although international comparisons show Britain performing well in delivering high-level qualifications, only a minority are gaining these qualifications. The comparisons show a disproportionate majority with poor qualifications - and a significant minority with little or nothing. Nearly one in three young people in their GCSE year do not get any passes at C or above, and one in 12 leave school without any qualifications at all.

The problems are even greater across the adult population. According to Sir Claus Moser's report, 'A Fresh Start', one in five have such poor literacy skills that they are unable to use the Yellow Pages, and one in four have such poor numeracy skills that they cannot calculate simple change. Only a handful of developed nations have problems as bad as these.

Of the seven and a half million jobs lost in Britain since 1970 the vast majority were unskilled, semi-skilled or barely skilled. As more unskilled jobs are stripped out, it will be through high-quality education that more and more people will realise their potential. Increasing numbers of employees need to communicate effectively, to solve problems quickly and to be creative and innovative. The challenge for Britain, therefore, is to open up the provision of learning and place it at the centre of people's lives. In particular it is to attract to learning those who have avoided it for most of their lives and those who are likely to.

Forty-three per cent of all viewing and listening in this country is to the BBC. The BBC can therefore engage tens of millions of people in the prospect of learning through the new media by promoting the idea in the old media. I have spent the last five years building an international production company in 30 countries around the world. …

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