Greg Dyke is trying hard to hide his delight at netting Channel 5.
The first sign that a triumphant Greg Dyke has arrived back at his
Teddington Studios base after winning the Channel 5 prize is the
entrance of his chauffeur into the floral reception area roaring ‘We are
Up in his office, Dyke himself is a little more controlled. For a man
whose ebullience and cheeky-chappie outspokenness has made him one of
the few TV bosses to become a household name, Dyke is in a considered
Of course, he’s sporting an ear-tickling grin and admits to quaffing a
little too much of the bubbly stuff, but this is not the off-his-face
punch-drunk I’d been expecting after a day of celebrations. Dyke is
giving away no secrets.
Yes, he was always confident that Channel 5 Broadcasting - the
consortium led by Pearson Television, of which Dyke is chairman and
chief executive - would win the licence. Yes, he was nervous about the
announcement, particularly when everyone seemed to have their money on
the rival bid from UKTV. And yes, he’s very relieved to have won.
But beneath the relief lies a keen sense of the task ahead. ‘One of the
great dangers of winning licences is that you have days like these. This
isn’t the end, it’s the beginning and there’s a lot of hard work to
come,’ Dyke points out.
Not that he isn’t pleased with his success, just that he’s been there
before - with LWT and with GMTV. ‘We set up GMTV and that didn’t work at
first. I’ve learned that things take time to get right, start-ups are
rarely successful straight off,’ he warns.
In the months ahead, Dyke will form the backbone of the new station.
This means honing the programming plans and taking the mantle of
figurehead with the media (apologies to those already sick of seeing
Dyke’s foxy, furry face in their newspaper). It’s what he’s good at, he
He’s clearly at home in front of the camera (this is the lad who brought
you Will Carling’s ‘old farts’ revelation in his recent TV show about
sport), and has no problems jumping on to his own soapbox before an
audience. A master of the quip, the below-the-belt verbal wallop that
hits where it hurts, Dyke has become a bit of a media darling.
Being a former journalist helps. Dyke is a self-confessed 60s liberal
who left school early, later studied politics at York University, did a
stint on the local newspaper reporting circuit, worked at Marks and
Spencer as a management trainee, put himself forward (and failed) as a
GLC Labour candidate, and spent time as a social worker. A latecomer to
television, Dyke began as a researcher at LWT at the age of 30.
Since then his populist approach and competitive aggression have helped
propel him up the TV ladder and he has shown a nifty ability to key into
the peccadillos of the British public. The 48-year-old Dyke - who is the
son of an insurance salesman and who apparently once harboured ambitions
to be the Manchester United midfielder, Nobby Stiles - brought the
nation Blind Date and rescued TV-am with Roland Rat.
Dyke’s user-friendliness is certainly endearing. He may be wealthy -
making an estimated pounds 7 million when LWT, of which he was chief
executive, was acquired by Granada - but manages to maintain an almost
grubby, man-off-the-street appeal, complete with glottal Estuary
English. (‘Tell ’im to bugger off,’ he shouts when his PA interrupts our
interview with an important call.) Friends say that Dyke still has a
firm grasp on his Middlesex roots, maintains a fairly modest lifestyle
and that his children are state-school educated.
It is an attraction of opposites which has paired Dyke’s streetwise
commercial nous with the blue-blooded Pearson. Dyke’s brief now is to
build a TV empire for Pearson. He will be spending around one day a week
working on Channel 5.
But what is it that makes him want to start all over again and build a
new TV company? Simple, he says. ‘Fun. That’s all it is. It’s a
challenge - how do you make something successful out of nothing? How do
you give it style?’
Dyke clearly can’t wait to get back into the thick of television
broadcasting. But is he also looking forward to a bit of a scrap with
his alma mater, ITV?
It’s a question Dyke thinks about for a moment - there was a bitter
battle before Granada swallowed LWT. ‘I don’t know...you have to move
on. I did very well out of ITV, I make no complaints, and I’ve still got
a lot of friends there.’ But bulldog Dyke doesn’t disappoint: ‘Mind you,
I wouldn’t mind giving Granada a hard time.’
The Dyke file
1977 LWT, researcher/producer
1983 TV-am, editor-in-chief
1984 TVS, director of programmes
1987 LWT, director of programmes
1989 LWT, deputy managing director
1992 LWT, chief executive, later also chairman of GMTV
1995 Pearson Television, chief executive