BBC caves in and publishes minutes of Hutton meetings

The BBC has published the minutes of the meeting in which they
decided to sack Director General Greg Dyke in the aftermath of the
Hutton inquiry.

Until now the minutes, from a Board of Directors'
meeting on January 28, were withheld by the BBC Trust under section 36
of the Freedom of Information Act.

Journalist Heather Brooke and
the Guardian had originally requested the information under the Act in
2005 but were refused. Together, they appealed against the decision and
this week the Information Tribunal ruled that the BBC should disclose
the files under the Act because disclosure was in the public interest.

Minutes
of the 28 January meeting reveal that Dyke thought Lord Hutton's report
was "the most one-sided report of its kind he had ever seen". And it
details how Dyke was asked to leave the room while directors discussed
his position. Opinion was split on whether he should be sacked and Dyke
himself offered to resign, only to withdraw the offer later in the
meeting and invite the board to "dismiss him or maintain him in the
post".

In the end the board agreed: "It would be impossible to sustain Greg as DG…since the Board's authority would be destroyed."

Negotiations
with Dyke and the board went on until 1.30am, which explains why the
announcement of his departure was not made until 29 January.

The
minutes also reveal that BBC Chairman Gavyn Davies decided to tell BBC
political correspondent Andrew Marr of his resignation before telling
the board because he "had not wanted to be hounded out of office by the
BBC's opponents and the Press."

The minutes provides a fascinating fly on the wall account of a climactic episode in recent British history.

Here is an abridged version of the 28 January meeting minutes – information in square brackets is added:

Private
session of the BBC Board of Governors on 28 January, 2004 [the day the
Hutton report was published. Meeting starts at 5pm.]

Gavyn Davies
[chairman of the BBC] began the meeting by summarizing Lord Hutton's
criticisms of the BBC. He believed the Report was unfair but that we
had to accept the referee's verdict. Gavyn explained that he had seen
no alternative but to resign as Chairman as this was the decent thing
to do.

Gavyn then explained why he had decided to tell Andrew
Marr of his decision at about 4.30pm, ahead of the Governors's meeting.
He had not wanted to be hounded from office by the BBC's opponents and
the Press.

During the brief a discussion which followed, there
was recognition that Gavyn's resignation was very big loss but probably
necessary. There was agreement that collective or selective further
resignations by Governors would significantly damage the BBC. It was
recognized as important to move forward in stages with protecting the
independence of the BBC a primary objective. It was suggested that
Richard Ryder [vice chairman of the Governors] should ensure DCMS
[Department of Culture Media and Sport] know that the BBC and the Board
remain in business.

Davies left the meeting at about 5.45pm.

Richard
Ryder then became acting chairman and explained that the Board would
require some private time without Greg Dyke to discuss next steps.

Dyke leaves the meeting.

After
a lengthy discussion Richard Ryder concluded by saying he judged that
the overall view of the Board was that Greg's offer of resignation
should be accepted.

Simon Milner [board secretary] asked the
Board if they wished to consider sleeping on such a significant
decision. In light of the discussion, Richard Ryder said it would be
more dignified if Greg were to announce his resignation that evening.
The Board concurred that delay would give rise to the impression of
dismissal.

Richard Ryder left the meeting at about 7.15pm to relay the Board's decision to Gavyn and Greg.

7.45pm.

Richard Ryder eported on his first meeting with Greg Dyke, who was very
surprised and therefore shattered by the news. He appreciated that this
was not a hanging jury, but had asked to be able to talk with the Board
in person. Richard had told him that this would not be possible. Greg
had then asked that everyone sleep on the decision overnight, and said
that he wanted to talk with Gavyn about his position. Stephen
Dando[head of BBC People] joined the meeting at about 8.10pm. . Stephen
thanked the Board for allowing him to advise them in his professional
capacity on the impact of their decision in HR terms. He pointed out
that Greg Dyke had had a huge, personal impact on the BBC. His
emotional connection with staff at all levels was very different from
the previous management regime.

Greg was the driving force
behind One BBC and this initiative was having a hugely important impact
on the organisation. The recent staff survey indicated that two-thirds
of staff were behind the change process. This enthusiasm might diminish
without Greg's leadership.

Stephen moved on to explain that the
Executive Committee has undergone a difficult journey on Charter
Review. There was now considerable agreement but this might be set back
many months if Greg were to go now.

Stephen said that the vast
majority of the Executive Committee supported Greg continuing despite
the Hutton Report. Greg was the best CEO that many of the Executive
(including Stephen himself) have ever worked for. It would be very
difficult to find someone with his strengths and qualities to run the
organisation in future.

Stephen concluded by saying that the
Board's decision could be extremely destabilising for the organisation.
Its consequences could be very profound.

Simon Milner returned to the meeting at 8.30pm.

He
reported that Greg had withdrawn his offer to resign and instead had
invited the Board to dismiss him or maintain him in post.

After
a brief discussion, the Board agreed that it would be impossible to
sustain Greg as DG in these circumstances since the Board's authority
would be destroyed. The mood of the Board was to dismiss Greg as DG if
necessary, but that it would be in the BBC's, the Board's and Greg's
interests if he were to resign.

Over the course of the next 2-3
hours, Richard Ryder and Pauline Neville-Jones [board member] undertook
two meetings with Greg Dyke, reporting back to the Board on further
developments.

At 9.30pm they reported that Greg was pursuing three distinct arguments as to why he should not resign:

He
had had an understanding with Gavyn Davies that the Chairman would
resign and that Greg would offer the Board an opportunity to back him.

The external debate on the Hutton Report was swinging in the BBC's
favour, and there would not therefore be a united public demand for
Greg's resignation to follow Gavyn's.

His work at the BBC was incomplete.

At
10.20pm they reported that Greg had agreed that the terms of his
departure should be discussed. Stephen Dando was now involved on
advising Richard and Pauline on the terms of Greg's contract regarding
voluntary termination. Stephen Dando and Janet Youngson (the BBC's Head
of Employment Law) recommended a payment equivalent to 12 months salary
and a pro rata bonus payment. The Board agreed in principle to a
termination on this basis.

At 11.45pm Richard Ryder asked that
Mark Byford [head of global news and chosen candidate as acting
director general] join the meeting.

After some supportive and
encouraging comments from Governors, Mark recounted his experience of
moving from National and Regional Broadcasting to the World Service
some five years previously. Mark then made a number of points,
including his views on the key actions he felt were now necessary:

The Executive Committee would need to be calm and together.

The internal and external communications would have to be even more closely aligned than usual.

Richard Sambrook must not be left in limbo and must be well handled.

The
leadership challenge would be immense in a highly turbulent period. It
would be important to uphold high-quality, independent journalism
within a framework of rigour.

The meeting concluded formally at
about 12.30am. Negotiations with Greg Dyke concerning the terms of his
departure were continued until he decided to leave for home at about
1.30am. These were resumed the following morning, being completed by
1pm.

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