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Speeches

Greg Dyke

Director-General


One BBC - Making It Happen


Television Centre, London, 7 February 2002
Printable version

A press release outlining the key points of this address is available here.


Good morning.


First of all could I warn you that I am going to talk for quite a long time this morning – not quite Fidel Castro length but long enough for there to be a danger of people getting bored so if I see people beginning to leave I'll try to cut it short. It's long because what I want to say today is important.


I want to talk about three things – firstly how we did last year, secondly what is the BBC's role in the digital age, and thirdly the progress we've made in meeting some of the aims of One BBC and the challenge we face now in taking the ideas further.

So let me start with the last twelve months. I would say that we had a pretty good year in all areas of the BBC and I'd like to thank everyone – and I mean everyone – for contributing to that.


We did well right across the board, in network television, where BBC TWO had a particularly good year, in radio where last week's figures showed record audiences for Radios 2, 4 and 5 Live; in news; in factual & learning; in drama, entertainment & children's; in new media where the launch of BBCi and interactive television has gone brilliantly, in the nations and regions; in BBC Local Radio; in sport; and in our international services.


Our commercial businesses also performed well. Worldwide made record sales; BBC Technology got off to a good start; we've just got the green light for BBC Broadcast and BBC Resources made a cash contribution to the BBC for the first time. Next year we hope it will make its first ever profit. I'm very optimistic about the future of Resources after some difficult years.


And let's not forget the professional services like finance, strategy, public policy, and HR. Support services are not necessarily the most glamorous parts of a broadcasting or programme-making organisation but they do matter and creativity is as important in those areas as in the obvious areas like production.


I do want to refer to our performance in two areas in particular.


The World Service has sometimes in the past been perceived as the poor relation in the BBC, in fact I am told there have been times when it saw itself as that. Never again. In the weeks after September 11th the World Service and our international television news service BBC World have come into their own.


How many of us before September 11th were aware that the BBC's Pashtu Service was the most important broadcaster in a Taliban-run Afghanistan? But everyone knows now and in Afghanistan everyone knew which is why the World Service was the only broadcaster allowed into the swearing-in ceremony of the new Government.


BBC World has had a similar success and I've had many letters and press cuttings from the United States praising World's coverage in contrast to the rather jingoistic coverage of the American networks.


Everyone who has contributed to our coverage of events since September 11th right across the BBC should feel proud of what they have achieved. Covering the war in Afghanistan was not easy and according to the people who went there it was pretty scary at times. But they performed brilliantly and our coverage has been outstanding across all media.


The second area I want to refer to is BBC ONE.


Last year BBC ONE had a higher share of the audience than ITV for the first time ever. We didn't even achieve that in 1989 when the ITV system was closed down for several weeks because of a strike!


Now we shouldn't get too excited about this – we only won by 0.1% and our victory was partly because ITV lost 7% of its audience in a single year. Remember, this stuff is cyclical, but it was a turning point and in the first month of this year we've carried on in the same vein. Last January BBC ONE was behind ITV by 3.6 share points. This year we were ahead by 0.9 share points, assuming of course that we believe the new BARB measurement system.


In recent years BBC ONE has had a rough time largely because it was under-funded. Two years ago I said restoring the strength of BBC ONE was one of my first and main priorities. We put in a lot of extra money, both to the channel directly and via the sports budget, and it is beginning to work.


Of course the response in some quarters to us winning was inevitable. According to some journalists and politicians this was just further evidence that the BBC was dumbing down. How else, they asked, could we have won? It had to be dumbing down.


It's a funny job this. A year ago we were being criticised for losing on BBC ONE. Now we are being criticised for winning.


Personally I just don't buy the dumbing down argument. BBC ONE's schedule is changing – as it should – but sometimes I feel the dumbing down debate is a bit like that scene in the Life of Brian when John Cleese asks, "What have the Romans ever done for us?", and the answer was the plumbing, the roads, the legal system etc. etc.


Imagine the scene. What did BBC ONE ever do for us last year?


Well there was Blue Planet, described by some as the best natural history series ever.


All right, all right I'll give you Blue Planet. But apart from that what did BBC ONE do for us last year?


Well did you see The Way We Live Now? David Suchet was brilliant.


All right, I'll give you that but apart from Blue Planet and The Way We Live Now what did BBC ONE do for us last year?


How about EastEnders, Messiah, The Lost World, Clocking Off, My Family, Linda Green, Walking with Beasts, Child of Our Time, Welcome to Britain, Panorama, Son of God, I Was a Rat, Comic Relief, Children in Need, The One o'clock News, the Six o'clock News, the Ten o'clock News and of course Germany 1 England 5. Although the latter wasn't quite so popular in Scotland I discovered!


Well I'll give you all that lot but apart from them what did BBC ONE do for us last year? Wasn't it all just dumbing down?


Personally I think BBC ONE had some great programmes last year. Programmes we should all be proud of and fight the case that BBC ONE isn't dumbing down.


Rather than dumbing down BBC ONE is getting better and will get better still this year.


Of course not all the programmes on BBC ONE, or BBC TWO for that matter, were outstanding and we can still do better. For instance last year BBC ONE still lost share amongst young adults, a problem I'll talk about later. But a lot of the programmes on BBC ONE and BBC TWO were fantastic and our audiences recognised that both in terms of ratings and in our appreciation indices.


Now we all know that getting ratings isn't our only aim at the BBC. We have a greater purpose than that. But equally we shouldn't be embarrassed when we do make good programmes that people watch in large numbers; we should all be proud of them.


In this second section of this speech I want to answer a question I am regularly asked, which is what is the purpose of the BBC in the digital age? The argument against us goes like this - in a world of massive choice why do we need the BBC? Why do we need a publicly funded, public service broadcaster at all? Surely the market will provide all that viewers, listeners and on-line users need or want?


Well I beg to differ. In fact, I believe the role of the BBC will be more important in a decade's time not less because, as a result of market fragmentation, the commercial market will not be able to afford to provide some of the services it has historically produced. More will be required of the BBC, not less.

I believe that the BBC will have three distinct roles in the 21st century.


The first is an international role and post September 11th the role of the BBC around the world becomes not less, but more, important.


Mark Byford who, as you know, runs the World Service and is soon to take responsibility for BBC World and our international online news services as well, ends his mission statement for the World Service by saying one of its aims is to produce services which "bring credit to Britain".


He's right that must be one of the aims of our international services because they are based on a set of BBC values – independence, openness, fairness and a range of opinion – which do reflect our country at its best.


Our second and, of course, principal role in 21st century Britain is a national role. The BBC is part of the glue which binds the United Kingdom together. At times of national joy or sadness, at profound moments in the UK or around the world, at times when the nation wants to celebrate, mourn or just enjoy itself people turn to the BBC. Be it to celebrate the millennium or a major sporting event, to mark the death of Princess Diana or even to enjoy the playing of a much loved programme like Only Fools and Horses - people turn in their millions to the BBC.


This role of uniting the nation becomes more not less important in a fragmenting media world. Remember 35 million people in the UK turned to the BBC's radio and television news services on September 11th. It is also why it is so important that our services are universally available.


Finally, I believe the BBC will have an increasingly important community role in the years ahead. In television, the ITV system was historically the regional system and the BBC the national system. That will gradually be reversed as the ITV system comes under greater financial pressure. In terms of regional television news ratings, we are now winning virtually everywhere, something that was unthinkable even five years ago.


And in the past 18 months our local radio stations – speech based stations not aimed solely at the young like most of commercial local radio – have shown their value when reporting the fuel crisis in the autumn of 2000, followed by the floods of that winter and then by the foot and mouth crisis last spring.


During the latter I got a letter from a woman in Cumbria which just said "thank you for Radio Cumbria – in an increasingly mad world it is our sanity".


We are currently investing heavily in locally-based information web sites, something we are able to do only because we are publicly funded. The market wouldn't pay for this.


And next comes the broadband world. We're investing in an experiment in Hull, arguably Britain's first broadband city, where we're trying to work out what the future will look like. We're trying a lot of different things but one thing I am certain of already is that the market alone won't deliver all the services broadband could bring to improve life in a community.


I believe most of what the BBC does today and will do over the next decade or so can be fitted into one of these three roles – international, national and community.


Moving on to my third subject, what about One BBC? Has it worked? Well some of it has and some hasn't – yet.


When we launched it we talked a lot about saving money so we could spend more on programmes and services.

In 1999 24% of our total income was being spent on overheads on actually running the BBC. In "One BBC" we set ourselves the target of reducing this to 15% by 2004. Well it now looks as if the figure for the current financial year, the year that ends on March 31st, will be below 17% and that we will hit 15% next year – a year early.


Along with the licence fee increase that's how we've increased BBC ONE's budget; that's how we'll pay for our new digital radio and television services; that's how we've managed to pay for extra sports rights, that's how we've managed to increase spending in the nations and regions, that's how we've paid for interactive television, that's how we've reversed the cuts in local radio and increased the speed of re-equipping the stations and that's how we'll pay to create the digital curriculum.


So in terms of money we've saved a lot and we are spending the savings on our programmes and our services. In this year alone we've increased spending by £150 million. Real savings are having a real impact. That wasn't achieved without a lot of pain and hard work.


Another aim of "One BBC" was simplifying the internal market system to take out the crazy bits; I've no doubt there are still some left, but my impression is that we've done that pretty successfully. I certainly don't get the number of complaints about it that I did two years ago.


Finally "One BBC" set about dismantling the broadcasting/ production split in certain areas and improving it others. We did it virtually overnight in areas like Children's, Sport, specialist factual programming and parts of radio and this process is still ongoing.


In some areas where we retained the split but improved the commissioning system, like drama, the results have been highly successful. In fact the renewed success of BBC ONE owes a lot to what has been produced by BBC Drama.


However, in other areas, like general factual, the current system is still not working as well as we'd like and when Jana Bennett arrives as the new Director of Television we'll have another look at it.


But there were other, equally important, aims of "One BBC" which I'd like to talk about for the rest of my time this morning. In the introduction to the original "One BBC" document I wrote that our aim was "to put audiences, creativity and programme making at the heart of the BBC."


I went on to say I believed we could achieve this if we could turn the BBC into a place "where people work collaboratively, enjoy their job and are inspired and united behind the common purpose of creating great television and radio programmes and outstanding online services."


I don't think we're there yet, judging by the feedback from our audiences and staff. So having saved the money and changed the structures it's time to concentrate on audiences, creativity and making this a really great place to work.


In the next couple of years we have an enormous opportunity, possibly a once in a lifetime opportunity to really change the BBC.


We should recognise that the collapse in the advertising market is having a profound effect on ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 as well as many of the commercial radio groups. Morale in those organisations has inevitably been dented by the difficulties they are going through. The same applies in the online world with the collapse of the dot coms.


All of this gives us an opportunity but it also puts a greater responsibility on the BBC to deliver. Because we are publicly funded, and we haven't been hit by the downturn in advertising, we have to up our game and produce even better programmes and services for all our audiences.


So what's stopping us? Well surveys show that while the BBC is widely respected by the public there are also some significant negatives. We are seen by many as safe, arrogant and out of touch. Staff surveys inside the BBC produce similar results. The latest shows that while people inside the organisation feel better informed than before they believe we're not risk taking, innovative or creative enough. And they don't think there's as much openness, honesty and collaboration as there should be.


There are three things that audience research tells us that particularly concern me:
· With a few obvious exceptions like Radio 1, we underserve the young - and by that I mean people under-55; and the younger people get, the more marginal the BBC is in their lives.
· Ethnic minorities in the United Kingdom disproportionately don't use our services and don't think we're for them.
· Many of our services are still seen as skewed towards the South of England, which they are.


We need to address these concerns urgently: Our purpose is public service broadcasting and that means we must have something to offer all our audiences.


Remember, everyone pays for the BBC, everyone should get something back.


Now we shouldn't get depressed by all this. We should just decide that we are going to change it. And by we I don't mean the senior management - I mean all of us.


We can change it by changing the BBC. We can all play a part in turning the BBC into a "can do" organisation where we all try to help to get things done rather than tell people why they can't be done. We can make the BBC an exciting and vibrant place where everybody wants to work.


In the nineties, believe it or not, one of the stated aims of the BBC was "to be the best-managed organisation in the public sector". I have to admit that wouldn't have got me out of bed in the morning. So let's forget that and agree that our aim today is very different.


So let me offer you a new vision. We want the BBC to be the most creative organisation in the world. And I don't just mean in the production and programme areas, I mean right across the BBC, everywhere – and that includes the commercial parts of the organisation. 20 per cent of our staff now work in these areas and they are as important to the BBC as any other. We are, after all, One BBC.


So how do we make that happen? How do we become the most creative organisation in the world? That's a question that the all of us on the Executive Committee have been asking ourselves - and I now want to share our thinking with you and, more important, enlist your help.


The first task is to understand audiences better and reach those we're not appealing to. We need to ensure that we are not only meeting their hopes and expectations but that we're exceeding them. It also means we need to communicate better with them, which is one of the reasons why we've put a new emphasis on focused marketing and communications. We need to get our messages through and to shift what people think of the BBC.


The second task, which arguably is inseparable from the first, is to make sure that we're the most innovative and risk taking place there is - and that will mean giving people the right to fail, encouraging new ideas in every part of the BBC and really changing some of the ways we work.


So today we're launching a big idea right across the BBC and we're calling it ONE BBC - MAKING IT HAPPEN. Before your hearts sink at the thought of yet another stream of paper and boxes to tick, let me tell you what this isn't. It's not a management consultant style set of navel-gazing task forces, that produce reams of paper and not a lot else. Neither is it a collection point for complaints and whinges. It's not another piece of bureaucracy.


Every member of the Executive team is committed to Making it Happen and every one of us will be involved personally.


We've identified seven areas where we think change will make a difference and we're asking experienced people from different parts of the BBC to lead a BBC-wide programme of change based around these seven ideas. They are:


Inspire creativity everywhere
Leader: Helen Boaden (Controller Radio 4)
· creativity is the lifeblood of the BBC
· we want new and big ideas from all parts of the BBC -
HR and finance are as important as programmes
· encourage risk-taking
· collaborate


Connect with all audiences
Leader: Jane Root (Controller BBC TWO)
· problems with some audiences - young (under 55),
ethnic groups, too South East
· who are they? what do they want? how do we provide that - and more
· Radio 1's sending a team to Bradford to find out why listening was down
· Not patronising. Not talking down. It's about connecting.


Those two are the main ones. The other five are the things we've got to do to help achieve them.


Value people
Leader: Jerry Timmins (Head of Americas, World Service)
· The BBC's greatest asset is you, the people who work here,
but you don't always believe it
· Good example - the Gillard Awards
· Help people develop and advance
· say thank you and well done
· Help each other achieve success


WE are the BBC
Leader: Roger Mosey (Head of Television News)
· People talk about "them." - their fault
· There is no "them". It's us.
· Example - Politics Conference. The decision makers were there!
· We, all of us, should be the best ambassadors for the BBC


Just do it!
Leader: Sara Geater (Director of Rights and Business Affairs)
· Too much paper. Too many meetings. Too much "can't do"
· Executive team's decision to scrap pointless meetings.
· Ask, "was that worth having?" If not, kill it.
· turn the BBC into a "can do" organisation.
· Be bold, but use your common sense. Don't break the law,
don't bankrupt the BBC or take health and safety risks.


Lead more, manage less
Leader: Andy Griffee (Controller, English Regions)
· Leadership is key
· Management isn't about control – it's about leadership.
· The Executive team will spend more time getting out there,
· Be human beings, enjoy yourselves, get out and about,
talk to your people


Make great spaces
Leader: Shar Nebhrajani ( Head of Finance, New Media)
· People work better in exciting and creative environments
· Decent conditions mean people feel cared for
· Boring buildings, colours, carpets, dull pictures, no fun
· John Smith and his team asked people to come up with ideas for making their
space better. He got 1,200 ideas from 3,000 replies


So they are the seven teams and the seven leaders. In the next few months these teams will talk to as many people as possible and come up with great proposals for change and then, make them happen. And we are looking for quick wins, so that people can see things changing immediately, as well as longer term ideas.


We also want every part of the BBC to carry out their own work on Making it Happen. Each division will have its own team made up of a wide range of people so that everyone - from all parts of the division - will have a chance to contribute. And I would also ask that people in every team in the BBC – be it at Watchdog, Radio Leicester or outside broadcasts – discuss how we make this place better, how we make it exciting, how do we ensure that the cynics and moaners in the organisation – and they're there in all big organisations – are marginalized. In short how do we cut the crap and make it happen?


To help me I've had a yellow card printed which says on it "cut the crap and make it happen" which I plan to bring out at every meeting when someone is trying to stop a good idea rather than make it happen. We'll send one to anyone who wants one.


We have asked Susan Spindler, one of the creators of Walking with Dinosaurs, Animal Hospital and The Human Body, to be the project director of One BBC - Making it Happen. She will lead a small team which will provide support, information, act as a collection point for ideas, suggestions and solutions. They'll let everyone know what's happening so that we can learn from one another, discuss problems and come up with joint solutions. It's important to understand they're catalysts, not a bunch of bureaucrats.


Now having said all that, I'm a practical sort of person and a bit impatient too and I get nervous when I can't offer concrete examples of what I mean. So we asked one of our young film makers Nicky Pattison to find out about some of the groundbreaking things that are already happening across the BBC. She discovered some great things.


Tape: (Blackburn Open Centre, Hull Broadband trial, Radio X, Scottish Soap, CBBC launches, White City Atrium opening)


What I still don't understand... Is why DID everyone have to wear those hard builders' hats if we only needed a door and a ramp?


There were two things in that film we've just seen that would not be happening if we hadn't taken money out of overheads and put it in to programmes - the new Scottish soap and the two new children's channels launching on Monday. So that part of One BBC is working.


Now this is the most important thing I'm going to say today.


This isn't my project or the Executive's project, or even Susan Spindler's project, In fact it's wrong to even call it a project. It's much more important than that. It belongs to all of us who want to change this place for the better and without your ideas it simply won't work.


So I'd like to set every one of you who is watching today a challenge. Ask yourself "is there one thing I can do to make a difference?" Don't just think it, do it!


If we all do that we can start to change this place right now.


And I'll give everyone an assurance. If you decide to get something done in the interests of Making it Happen, in the real interest of improving the BBC for the people who work here and for the audiences out there, I'll back you - even if it goes wrong. We have to learn to accept that if we want more risk taking, people will try lots of things and some won't work.


That's it then, that's the speech. Not quite Fidel length but not bad. Just remember between all of us we can really make this place buzz and if we do that we'll make great programmes and deliver great services.




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