Michael Grade white knight for ITV
by Annika Pham
29/11/2006 - The charismatic television executive Michael Grade has just quit his position as chairman of the BBC to join rival terrestrial broadcaster ITV.
The news came as a surprise on Monday night to BBC staff members as Mr Grade was due to head the new BBC Trust from January – the replacement of the BBC’s Board of Governors – plus the corporation is going through tough negotiations with the government over a possible increase in the BBC licence fee, which would be effective for the next five to seven years.
"Clearly this is a surprise, especially at this moment”, stated the BBC. “For the last two-and-a-half years Michael Grade has been a great chairman, who along with the director general Mark Thompson has achieved a successful charter settlement for the BBC. The future system of governance, secured by Michael, will strengthen the BBC's accountability to its audiences."
For ITV – who has been struggling with falling advertising and TV ratings over the last three years and was desperate to find a new inspirational figure at its head (following Chief Executive Charles Allen’s resignation last July) – Mr Grade’s appointment is a real coup. ITV just faced the possibility of being swallowed by cable group NTL (backed by Richard Branson), but the takeover bid was stopped when satellite broadcaster BSkyB bought a 17.9% stake in the company.
Sixty-three year-old Grade will run ITV as executive chairman at least for the next three years and one of his tasks will be to bring the 50 year-old firm into the digital age. In a letter to BBC colleagues, the flamboyant TV personality, who is the nephew of ITV founder Lew Grade, said: “ITV is a competitor to the BBC, yes. But the BBC does need ITV to be strong, both for competitive reasons and to maintain the balance of power within British public service broadcasting”.
Michael Grade has also been chairman of Pinewood/Shepperton studios since 2000.