MEDIA: HEADLINER; Channel 5 triumph finds TV’s tough talker anticipating fun

By CLAIRE BEALE, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 03 November 1995 12:00AM

Greg Dyke is trying hard to hide his delight at netting Channel 5.

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

the champions’.



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

mood.



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

says.



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



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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