Former BBC chairman attacks Grade for 'unfortunate' timing of move to ITV

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The Independent Online

Michael Grade has come under further attack from the former BBC chairman Sir Christopher Bland for his abrupt departure to ITV, which has "bruised" the broadcaster.

Sir Christopher criticised Mr Grade's "inelegant" departure for leaving the BBC with a gap at the top of its new trust, which replaces its board of governors on 1 January, and with question marks over its funding for the next decade.

"I think to leave before the licence fee has been settled and when you're just about to take on a job as chairman of the BBC Trust, which you've negotiated - I mean he's left that job before he started - I think that's unfortunate," Sir Christopher said in an interview. "And the BBC plainly feels bruised."

Mr Grade's decision to swap the BBC for the executive chairman's role at ITV, the UK's biggest commercial broadcaster, stunned insiders at the corporation.

Sir Christopher, who quit the BBC five months after becoming chairman of BT in 2001, said it was "for other people to decide" whether Mr Grade had left the corporation in the lurch, but said: "I don't think he's left very elegantly."

He picked fault with Mr Grade's timing, given that the BBC is on the verge of a historic move into a new charter and system of governance. "It was Michael's idea," he said.

Sir Christopher did concede he had "some sympathies" with Mr Grade given that being chairman of the BBC Trust, which will be a regulatory role, "is far less attractive than the job of chairman of the BBC".

Sir Christopher, who chaired LWT in the mid-1980s and 1990s, will step down from BT next July at the group's annual meeting. He said he was open to offers if a "really interesting and exciting job" came along, but ruled out a return to the BBC. "You don't go back," he said.

The BBC will learn within weeks if the Government will raise the licence fee to an inflation-busting £180-a-year. Mr Grade played a leading role in negotiating the new figure with Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary.