Greg Dyke grabbed the headlines with his MacTaggart lecture, but do his plans - and his sums - for the BBC's future add up? Steve Clarke tracks down some dissenting voices in the industry.
As PR strategy, Greg Dyke's MacTaggart lecture was a masterstroke.

Dyke managed to have both his cake and eat it (front-page headlines two days running). By the time he took the lectern at Edinburgh's McEwan Hall last Friday, most of the criticism directed at his seven-channel strategy was water under the Forth Bridge. But was the substance as good as the spin?Terms like 'defensive' and 'conservative', let alone 'dull' and 'laborious' are not ones often associated with The People's DG. Why then did they keep cropping up in the deluge of words that came gushing out of the 25th Edinburgh Television Festival?'To spend what seemed like 20 minutes of an hour-long lecture talking about Hugh Carleton Greene was, to say the least, excessive,' said a former colleague of Dyke's from his ITV days. 'Too much of it was dull and defensive.'

Yet as a statement of intent, Dyke's MacTaggart must rank as one of the most cogent in the festival's history. Even Dyke's old sparring partner, Granada Media chief executive Steve Morrison, acknowledged that the speech was a model of clarity. The problem was, did it go far enough and will the Dyke blueprint enable the BBC to survive as the digital market place expands?'It's a fundamentally necessary step but it is only a first step,' argued David Docherty, the BBC's former deputy director of television. 'You have to confront all the new media issues - on demand, broadband, online - and ask yourself will the licence fee be sustainable in the light of these developments in five or more years' time.'

Others who listened wondered why Dyke chose to ignore the longer-term challenges facing the BBC. A senior BBC man said: 'Most of what Dyke had to say has been in the pipeline for some time. These ideas were all being developed when Birt and Wyatt were in charge.'

Others wondered what had happened to Dyke's belief that education is central to what he regards as the Corporation's main purpose - although, to be fair, there was a passing reference to how the new portfolio of channels will contribute towards 'achieving the BBC's educational goals'.

Generally, however, festival delegates welcomed the fact that Dyke used the MacTaggart to repeat his belief that a devotion to making and commissioning ambitious programmes is the BBC's raison d'etre. 'Everything else is secondary,' Dyke reassured his audience, concluding: 'It's the programmes, stupid.'

The detail of how this purpose is best served, however, aroused considerable controversy. Dyke's commercial rivals grabbed every opportunity to accuse the BBC's decision to launch two new digital children's channels as a 'distortion of the market'.

Morrison suggested that audiences would be best served by a collaborative 'best of British' children's station. He was echoed by Disney Channel UK managing director Paul Robinson who said the BBC's proposals for younger viewers would drive other players out of a competitive market. 'Improving the quality of BBC 1 and 2, rather than investing in new digital services, is what the BBC should be doing', he maintained. This view was not uncommon but Dyke insisted there was public support for a children's service that was not motivated by commercial imperatives. Here, as elsewhere, the sound of vested interests was almost loud enough to drown out the after-hours din of the George bar.

Channel 5 chief executive David Elstein dismissed Dyke's suggestion that TiVo technology would lead to the end of advertising-funded networks, arguing that in another era proponents of the VCR had also predicted commercial catastrophe for ITV.

That other festival egghead Channel 4 director of programmes Tim Gardam, also attacked Dyke. The MacTaggart, he said, had shown that 'the BBC was now stuffed with money', an extra£480m of it, to be precise. 'Greg's plan,' he added, 'was perfectly cogent so long as the BBC can fund real programmes of ambition like Warriors.'

Where Gardam parted company with the vision of the BBC as set out in the MacTaggart was what he regarded as Dyke's insistence that only the BBC can be relied upon to defend the core values of public service in a digital universe.

In what was one of the more perceptive comments made during the entire gabfest, Gardam said that for public service broadcasting to thrive, broadcasters must be able to provide television as artefact, rather than as commodity.

For this to happen, the BBC must face competition from different sorts of public service broadcasters like - you guessed it - C4.

Gardam was equally dismissive of Dyke's call for something like the regulatory status quo, with separate regulators policing the BBC and the commercial sector. In theory, Dyke and the board of governors are unlikely bed fellows but in under a year at the helm of Broadcasting House he has already gone native. Gardam was not alone in thinking that the BBC should be subject to independent third-party scrutiny.

Ultimately, though, it all boils down to money. What doesn't? The only real news from Dyke's MacTaggart was that this was the first time the director general had put a price on his seven-channel vision - that£480m again. More than a handful of festival goers wondered if this was anything like enough money to fund such an ambitious array of channels.

Running BBC 3 and 4 on£60m-odd each did not add up, according to opinion.

And how much were the two children's stations getting? If he knew, Dyke wasn't letting on. 'I can only hold about three or four numbers in my head at any one time,' chirped Dyke in his post-MacTaggart interview.

Just like Carleton Greene, eh?