BBC's Michael Grade Plans Governance Makeover

05 April 2004

Along with filling the vacant post of director general, revamping the role of the BBC's board of governors tops the list of priorities confronting the broadcaster's ebullient new chairman, veteran broadcasting maverick Michael Grade.

Appointed Friday [WAMN: 02-Apr-04], Grade told a news conference: "The regulatory role of the governors is in urgent need of clarification, if not urgent repair. In practice, this means a greater separation between the executive and the governors."

The appointment of the cigar-chomping 61-year-old was widely welcomed by the BBC's 27,500 employees. He was applauded by hundreds of staffers as he went walkabout at the BBC Television Centre on Friday -- especially when he undertook to defend the BBC's editorial independence and lay to rest the recent Iraq war-triggered grappling match with the Blair administration.

Grade also promised to resist chasing TV ratings at the expense of quality. Criticisms of 'dumbed-down' programming were frequently levelled at recently departed director general Greg Dyke.

This will be music to the ears of two very disparate camps: those who believe the BBC's remit is as much to inform and educate as to entertain; and equally to its commercial rivals who have received a ratings drubbing from the public service broadcaster in recent years.

Opined Grade: "Good ratings for top-flight programmes should be applauded. But if you have a £20 million ($36.58m; €30.19m) giveaway quiz show, I'm sorry, that's not acceptable. That's buying ratings."

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff