Michael Grade to Chair BBC

02 April 2004

According to the Financial Times, the government will today announce the appointment of Michael Grade as the next chairman of the BBC -- a choice likely to create jubilation in some quarters and deep controversy in others.

Grade, scion of a showbiz family whose late members include Sir Lew Grade and Sir Bernard Delfont, started his career as a sports reporter with the Daily Mirror, before joining the family business as an agent.

In 1973 he was hired as director of programmes by the now defunct London Weekend Television -- an otherwise undistinguished franchise that spawned two eventual BBC directors general, John Birt and Greg Dyke … and now its latest chairman.

Leaving LWT, Grade became director of programmes for BBCTV between 1986-88, moving on to assume the chief executive's role at Channel 4 where his controversial programming policy earned him the title 'Britain's pornographer-in-chief'' from a malevolent tabloid.

Currently, Grade chairs national lottery operator Camelot and Pinewood Studios. His stint as BBC chairman, a part-time position, will be more a labour of love than money -- the £81,000 ($149,900; €121,608) annual stipend being petty cash by Grade's standards.

Topping his 'to do' list is the appointment of a new director general, following the resignation of Greg Dyke in the wake of the controversial Hutton Report.

Of equal priority and seminal importance is the authoring of the broadcaster's submission to the government about the BBC's future purpose and structure. The future shape of the BBC as an independent and significant public service broadcaster rests largely in Grade's hands.

Although his appointment will not please all within the BBC (nor many outside it), there is likely to be a collective sigh of relief that Grade is no clone of Sir John Birt, who retains the ear of prime minister Blair despite being the most unpopular BBC senior executive of the past thirty years.

Blair's office, which is expected to confirm Grade as chairman later today, refused to comment. BBC executives said they had not yet been informed.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff