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TV & Radio

BBC 'too bureaucratic', says Michael Grade


Former BBC Chairman Michael Grade has criticised the corporation for becoming over-burdened with bureaucracy.

Lord Grade, 69, whose decisions as BBC1 controller in the 1980s included scrapping Doctor Who and Dynasty and launching EastEnders, said today's commissioners were too preoccupied with box-ticking.

He told the Radio Times: "I think the BBC has become too bureaucratic. I commissioned The Singing Detective in the loo.

"I bumped into Jonathan Powell, the head of drama. He said, 'I've just had a meeting with (dramatist) Dennis Potter. He's got a thing called The Singing Detective.'

"I said, 'OK, we'll do it.' That was it. What's missing today, to a certain extent, are people's instincts. You're not allowed to trust your instincts."

Lord Grade, who has also held positions as chief executive of Channel 4 and executive chairman of ITV and was famous for his cigars, red socks and braces, said the best years of television ended in the 1980s.

"I do think there was a golden age of television," he told the magazine.

"I think it lasted about 30 years. The stuff that poured out of ITV and the BBC through the late 60s, 70s and 80s was just gobsmacking - Play for Today, Armchair Theatre, drama series, documentary series, current affairs."

Lord Grade, who is descended from an immigrant Ukrainian Jewish family and last year became Lord Grade of Yarmouth in the House of Lords, taking the Conservative whip, also criticised some welfare claimants for not doing enough to help themselves.

"Welfare has now become an entitlement. It's not a safety net any more, it's an entitlement.

"The words that should be banned in this country are, 'What is the Government doing about this?' Well, what are you doing about it?

"I'm a huge believer in the welfare state - if you are really struggling, then that's what the state should do, help people. But it's got to ridiculous extremes," he told the magazine.