He is most notable for his tenure as Director-General of the BBC from January 2000 to January 2004, a position from which he resigned following heavy criticism of the BBC's news reporting process in the Hutton Inquiry. He is the chairman of children's television company HiT Entertainment, and was the Chancellor of the University of York from 2004 to 2015.
Dyke was born in 1947, in Hayes, Middlesex, the youngest of three sons in a "stable, lower middle class" family. His father was an insurance salesman. The family lived at 17 Cerne Close until he was 9, then moved to Cedars Drive, Hillingdon. He was educated at Yeading Primary School and then Hayes Grammar School, which he left with one grade "E" at A-level mathematics. After school he was briefly a trainee manager at Marks & Spencer before leaving to work as a trainee reporter for the Hillingdon Mirror, becoming chief reporter in eight months. He left the Mirror after attempting to stage a union-backed protest against poor pay conditions by the junior staff of the work on the paper. He then got a job at the Slough Evening Mail. Amongst his colleagues was future music journalist Colin Irwin.
He then went on to study for a degree at the University of York as a mature student, graduating in 1974 with a bachelor's degree in politics. During his time at York, Dyke was active in student politics, and was part of a collective that produced a psychedelic underground student magazine called Nouse. He also met and married his first wife Christine Taylor whilst at the university. As he was a mature student with work experience, his politics were more of a traditional Labour supporter than some of the more radical far left students. His contemporaries and friends at York included future journalists Linda Grant and Peter Hitchens, the latter then active in the International Socialists. Dyke was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University in 1999 and was Chancellor from 2004 to 2015.
After university, Dyke followed his first wife to Newcastle. He had become disillusioned with newspaper journalism, and tried for a job as a junior reporter at BBC Radio Teesside. He was unsuccessful, apparently because the interviewers felt no-one would understand his accent. Dyke instead found work covering rural affairs for the Newcastle Journal. He moved back to London with Christine in 1974 to become campaign officer for the Wandsworth Community Relations Council. He hated the job and left to campaign to be elected GLC councillor for Putney. Again he was unsuccessful.
He was given assistance getting a job at London Weekend Television (LWT) by fellow ex-Newcastle journalist Nicholas Evans, who was at the time working on Weekend World. Dyke got a junior position on LWT's local politics programme, in the current affairs department. His bosses there were John Birt and Peter Jay. He attracted attention for trying to give the programmes he worked on a more populist edge. This led to him being given the chance to launch a new early evening current affairs topical news programme. This became The Six O'Clock Show, fronted by Michael Aspel, with co-hosts Danny Baker and Janet Street-Porter. The show is seen by many as the first example of British tabloid TV.
After the success of The Six O' Clock Show, Dyke was brought in by Jonathan Aitken to become programme director at ailing station TV-am in April 1983. The station was doing very badly in the ratings compared to the BBC's popular Breakfast Time magazine style programme. He was instrumental in reviving the breakfast show's fortunes by introducing a new schedule based around popular features including bingo, celebrity gossip and horoscopes.
Dyke left TV-am, in May 1984 after Bruce Gyngell was brought in to enhance and improve the company to allow it to be financially viable. Ten days later, Michael Moor, the TV-am General Manager, also left the station. In August 1984, Dyke became Director of Programmes for TVS.
In April 1987, Dyke moved from TVS to LWT again to be Director of Programmes (replacing John Birt) - having originally worked at LWT in 1978. At the same time, he helped LWT re-sectioning the company in a bid to cut costs and overhaul the working practices within the company ahead of a new franchise period, which it won. In 1992 Dyke was appointed the chairman of the ITV Council, and LWT chief executive. In February 1993 Dyke was appointed chairman of the GMTV board and tasked with overhauling the station format, which included "more popular journalism". His role was primarily to bring new and imaginative ideas to the station without taking on full day-to-day running. In 1994, he made a fortune when Granada bought out the LWT.
Dyke became chairman and chief executive of Pearson Television in January 1995, and began expanding the company. His first acquisition was Grundy Television which helped build Pearson into the biggest non-US independent production company in the world.
At the end of October 1995 a consortium guided by Dyke was awarded the licence for Channel 5, and he became the first chairman of the new channel. He was appointed Chairman of Channel 5 on 21 February 1997. Also in 1997 he was asked to review the Patients' Charter of the National Health Service.
In 2000, he took over from John Birt. At the beginning of his tenure, he famously promised to "cut the crap" at the Corporation. The "crap" he referred to was the complex internal market Birt had introduced at the BBC which, it is claimed, turned employees away from making programmes and into managers. Dyke reversed this trend – he reduced administration costs from 24% of total income to 15%. Unusually for a recent Director-General, he had a good rapport with his employees and was popular with the majority of BBC staff, his management style being seen as more open and risk-taking than Birt's.
Jonathan Gifford, who worked for BBC Magazines in BBC Worldwide during the management of Birt and Dyke, observed "Dyke came across well. He was direct, sensible and approachable. His vision for the BBC was inspirational." Martin Montague, a producer on digital radio station BBC7 said "I know that people in local radio think he walks on water because of all that he's put into that."
Apart from restoring staff morale, Dyke laid claim to two major achievements during his office. In 2002, he introduced the Freeview terrestrial digital transmission platform with six additional BBC channels, and persuaded Sky TV to join the consortium. Previously this was an ITV subscription service that had closed with major losses, but by mid-2007 it could be seen by more than half the population. After leaving the BBC, he said that he always realised that the introduction of Freeview helped to prevent a subscription funding model for the BBC gain traction, because it is impossible for broadcasters to switch off the signal to individual Freeview boxes.
Dyke controversially described the Corporation in early 2001 as "hideously white", based on statistics that showed the organisation's management structure was 98% white. Dyke said that "The figures we have at the moment suggest that quite a lot of people from different ethnic backgrounds that we do attract to the BBC leave. Maybe they don't feel at home, maybe they don't feel welcome." Dyke set a target that by 2003, 10% of the BBC's UK workforce and 4% of management would be from ethnic minority backgrounds. In September 2004, Dyke received an award for his remarks from Glasgow-based organisation Empower Scotland, which fights against workplace racism.
Dyke attracted criticism when he "forgot" to sell an equity stake in Granada Television, which presented a conflict of interest in his new position. He also caused controversy when he lost the rights to Premier League football to ITV, then accused the league of fixing the auction. Others were worried that the openness and high risk strategies of his management style could backfire on the corporation. An ITV executive was quoted as saying, "By being too radical and playing fast and loose with the public service remit, the BBC is inviting external regulation – and it deserves it."
Dyke resigned from the BBC on 29 January 2004 along with Gavyn Davies and Andrew Gilligan, after the publication of the Hutton Report. Hutton described Dyke's approach to checking news stories as "defective"; when Alastair Campbell complained about the story, Dyke had immediately defended it without investigating whether there was any merit to the complaint.
In an email sent to all BBC staff just prior to his resignation Dyke wrote:
It was subsequently established that Dyke had offered his resignation to the BBC's Board of Governors while hoping that they would reject it. However, he was only able to secure the support of about one-third of the Governors.
Some BBC staff felt that too much blame had been placed on their organisation in the wake of the David Kelly affair in the Hutton Report, and that the government was interfering in the BBC. Tim Gospill, spokesman for the National Union of Journalists said "Being independent doesn't just mean not having the government telling you what to do. It means you can criticise the government as well. I'm not at all sure the government understands that." Groups of staff staged walk outs from Broadcasting House and other BBC offices in Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Glasgow, Cardiff and Londonderry, in protest at Dyke's resignation. In addition, on 31 January 2004, BBC staff paid for a full-page advert in the Daily Telegraph to express their "dismay" over Dyke's departure. The fundraisers hoped to raise £10,000, a lot less than the market rate for a full page advert in a broadsheet newspaper. Reportedly they raised less than this amount, but were offered a deal by the Telegraph's advertising department which allowed the advert to be printed. It was signed by around 4,000 BBC employees; 10,000 (around a third of total BBC staff at the time) submitted their names for publication, but there was not sufficient space to include them all.
The statement in the advertisement read:
Speaking on GMTV on 30 January, Dyke himself questioned the conclusions of the report, saying "We were shocked it was so black and white [...] We knew mistakes had been made but we didn't believe they were only by us." He also claimed that Lord Hutton was "quite clearly wrong" on certain aspects of law relating to the case. On 11 January 2007, the BBC published minutes of its post Hutton board meetings. It was revealed that Dyke had claimed he had been "mistreated and wanted to be reinstated".
On 28 November 2003, Dyke was formally appointed by the University of York as its new Chancellor, replacing Dame Janet Baker, who had served in the post since November 1991. There was some controversy regarding his appointment in the midst of the Iraq Dossier scandal. He officially took the post in August 2004. In this role, he is the honorary and ceremonial head of the University, as well as heading the University Development Board. He has also made a personal grant to the new Department of Theatre, Film and Television, to found the Greg Dyke Chair in Film and Television. On 6 February 2004, Dyke announced that he had signed a six-figure book contract with HarperCollins. The book ("Inside Story"), subsequently published in September 2004, goes into detail about Dyke's opinion on the relationship between the BBC and the British government, and of the Dr. David Kelly affair and Hutton Inquiry. In July 2004, Dyke was awarded honorary doctorates from the University of Sunderland, Middlesex University and in 2006 from The University of Bedfordshire. He was appointed Chair of the British Film Institute on 15 February 2008, succeeding Anthony Minghella. On 10 March 2010, it was reported that he had been approached by Alexander Lebedev and his son Evgeny Lebedev to edit The Independent and The Independent on Sunday newspapers. In the wake of the News of The World hacking affair, Dyke frequently appeared in the media to comment on events. In April 2011, he said "I don't think the News of the World is a great contribution to British journalism. [...]They had obviously being playing fast and loose for a long time and are now getting their just deserts."
Dyke was the non-executive Chairman of Brentford F.C., a position he held from 20 January 2006 until July 2013. He was appointed as part of the club takeover by Bees United, the Brentford Supporters Trust.
Dyke has jointly supported Manchester United and Brentford F.C. all his life. Dyke's elder brothers supported Tottenham, but he preferred to support Man Utd. He became involved with Brentford in his childhood when his brother was a junior there. Manager Bill Dodgin, Sr. tried to sign his brother, but their father would not agree to him committing to what he saw as a non-lucrative career.
From 1997 to 1999, Dyke served on the board at Manchester United as a non-executive director, and was the sole board member to oppose a takeover bid from BSkyB, which was subsequently rejected by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. When he became Director General of the BBC he admitted a "potential conflict of interest" between his new post and his current non-executive directorship at Manchester United PLC. He resigned his position to avoid controversy. In a speech at the Manchester Evening News Business of the Year Awards, he said "it was seen as a conflict of interest to both buy and sell football rights. My kids have never forgiven me for joining the BBC because of that."
At Brentford, Dyke's focus was on budget constraints for the small club and the necessity to generate money from televised matches and other means. Under Dyke the club's performance was initially unsteady, with a few highlights but the club experiencing its worst run since the 1970s. On 28 January 2006, they beat Premier League strugglers Sunderland 2-1 in the fourth round of the FA Cup, but lost 3–1 to another Premier League club Charlton Athletic (of which former BBC Chairman Michael Grade was non-executive Director) in the fifth round. Dyke said of the draw "we'd have preferred to be at Old Trafford because it'd have got us a lot more money."
The club finished third in the league that year and lost to Swansea City in the play-off semi-final. These initial slight successes preceded a spell of misfortune which saw Brentford lose 16 matches in a row and be relegated to Football League Two in 2007. Turnover of managers was fast, with Allen, Leroy Rosenior, Scott Fitzgerald, Alan Reeves, Barry Quin, Terry Butcher in the space of two years, before Butcher's assistant Andy Scott got the team back on track, winning the League Two title on 25 April 2009. However Scott could not continue the success and after a series of poor results he was sacked in February 2011. Dyke remained upbeat: ""We are slightly disappointed with this season, as we increased the playing budget," he said. "The highlight was getting to Wembley but we froze a little in the final. But we have a good team, no matter who the manager is. We are spending enough money and we should be getting to the play-offs." Dyke announced plans in 2010 for the club to move to a new ground, selling off the Griffin Park ground for residential housing to raise money. Dyke said: "Our aim is to move into a new stadium in Lionel Road and to move there as a club free of debt."
Dyke replaced David Bernstein as chairman of The Football Association in July 2013 after relinquishing his role as Brentford chairman and receiving approval from the FA council.
After Sepp Blatter's sudden departure at Fifa on 2 June 2015, when Blatter claimed he was resigning for honourable reasons and to allow Fifa to move on, Dyke said," I don't believe a word of this. If he believes that, why not step down last week when we asked him to? He was cock-a-hoop when he won the election and terribly arrogant. Clearly there is a smoking gun. This is nothing to do with Mr Blatter being honourable; he hasn't been honourable for years".
Dyke appeared on BBC Two's Newsnight programme on 8 July 2011 alongside comedian Steve Coogan, where he confronted former News of the World deputy features editor Paul McMullen over his attitude to the events of the phone hacking scandal. Dyke told McMullen "You're [the tabloids] nothing to do with a free press, or a decent democracy". Distancing himself from McMullen he said "I've spent most of my life being a journalist, and I'm nothing to do with him, and neither are most other journalists." He continued "You could see there are occasionally, very occasionally, public interest cases but most of the time [it wouldn't make it less morally reprehensible]. These guys [tabloid journalists] just tapped anyone they could think of". He was also of the opinion that stronger independent regulation of the press was needed, claiming that broadcast media had always been more strictly regulated.
On 11 July 2011, Dyke wrote in the Financial Times that "from the moment it was revealed that the News of the World had hacked into Milly Dowler's phone, Rupert Murdoch's bid to buy the 60.9 per cent of British Sky Broadcasting that News Corp does not already own was all but over". He admitted, "for those of us who have been warning about the tactics used by the Murdoch operation for many years – Mr Murdoch once described me as 'an enemy' – the events of the past week have been sweet."
In his early years, Dyke was an active supporter of the Labour Party and in 1977 he attempted to win a seat on the Greater London Council (GLC) for Labour at Putney. Until 1999 he was considered "very much part of Tony Blair's New England", attending parties to celebrate Labour's 1997 election victory. In later years, he was a financial donor to the party, was asked to write a report on the future of the NHS. before leaving Labour prior to the 2005 general election, in which he supported the Liberal Democrats.
On 2 May 2005, the former Labour supporter Dyke went public at a Liberal Democrat press conference and said that "Democracy was under threat if Labour was elected for a third term".
On 20 April 2009, it was announced that he was to lead a review of the UK’s creative sector for the Conservative Party.
Dyke has been married twice. He met his first wife Christine Taylor at the University of York; they were married for most of the 1970s. He lives in Hampshire, near Stockbridge, with his second wife, Susan Howes, a former sociology teacher and probation officer. Susan is now a trustee of Safe Ground, a charity which works with young offenders. They have four children. The Dykes also own a house on the west coast of County Cork, Ireland.