BBC chairman comes under fire for depicting businessmen as crooks

Michael Grade, the chairman of the BBC, yesterday launched a vigorous defence of the way business is portrayed on radio and television but there was one complaint he could not answer: why is Matt Crawford, the businessman in The Archers, the only character who plays the part of a crook?

Michael Grade, the chairman of the BBC, yesterday launched a vigorous defence of the way business is portrayed on radio and television but there was one complaint he could not answer: why is Matt Crawford, the businessman in The Archers, the only character who plays the part of a crook? "That's a very good point, I don't know the answer," Mr Grade replied before turning to the CBI's director general, Digby Jones, and saying: "I don't think you should take it personally, Digby, I really don't."

Mr Jones, however, said that he did take it to heart and revealed that he had written once to Granada demanding to know why a serial killer who was eventually found dead at the bottom of a canal was played as a businessman and not a trade unionist. "The answer I got back is that everyone hates businessmen," he said.

Mr Grade maintained that business was no longer a "dirty word" within the BBC and said he "sincerely hoped" there weren't people within the corporation who were innately anti-business.

Earlier, Mr Grade announced the BBC's response to the Graf review of its online output, saying it intended to close down more of its online sites and set a quota for the amount of online content produced externally. He said that by the end of the year the corporation aimed to free up 10 per cent of its online budget for re-investing in other sites which generated "demonstrable public value".

He also disclosed that as part of the corporation's efforts to emphasise the independence of its board of governors from the BBC management, they would be moving into separate premises away from Broadcasting House in central London. "Our independence from management will be underlined by the powerful symbolism of physical separation," he said.

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