Grade attack on BBC wins praise

A SHARP attack on the BBC by Michael Grade, Channel 4's chief executive, was welcomed yesterday by much of the television industry, including some of the corporation's own employees.

Mr Grade accused the BBC of editorial dictatorship with more centralised control and said it was guilty of 'political appeasement . . . which can lead to terminal decline'.

BBC officials rushed to dismiss Mr Grade's passionate criticism of its policies, governors and senior managers, calling his speech a caricature. But the mood of his audience was quite different.

Television producers - many from the BBC - left the Kirk of St Cuthbert in Edinburgh, where the speech opened the International Television Festival, welcoming the criticism and the call for a public debate on the corporation's future.

Bill Cotton, managing director of Noel Gay Television and a former BBC managing director, said: 'It wasn't just Michael grabbing the headlines - he was sending out a clear message to the people who make the policy in the BBC. They should consider what he said very carefully.'

Marmaduke Hussey, chairman of the BBC Board of Governors, issued a low-key statement defending the corporation. He said that Mr Grade had failed to consider how broadcasting was going to change. 'Michael Grade charges that the BBC would pay any price to defend the licence fee. Not so. But as a publicly funded, public service broadcaster, the BBC must ensure that its programmes are original and distinctive, alert to what the public needs and wants. It must also ensure its programmes are efficiently made,' he said.

But Linda Agran, a drama producer whose successes include London's Burning and Minder, said Mr Grade was right. So did Paul Jackson, director of programmes for Carlton Communications, who produced programmes such as The Young Ones for the BBC.

Sir George Russell, chairman of the Independent Television Commission, who travelled to the festival simply to hear the speech, said it was the best Mr Grade would ever make. Peter Ibbotson, of Carlton Television, added: 'The speech was from the heart, and it struck a real chord with the audience.'

Sir George said he was particularly pleased that Mr Grade had proposed abolition of the system of governors and the creation of a single television commission to license all channels. This also won support from independent producers at the conference.

The aim is to separate powers so that the BBC is no longer dealing directly with the Government, making it less susceptible to bullying. Mr Grade also struck home with his denunciation of the BBC's apparent move from broadly based entertainment towards less popular programming.

He argued that popular soap operas such as Neighbours should be retained and the corporation should not be ashamed of entertaining programmes.

'It is the BBC that keeps us all honest,' he said, adding that if it no longer competed with ITV, standards might decline.

Mr Grade is the first person of any stature in the television industry to challenge Mr Hussey. There are indications that his speech will be the opening shot in a wider campaign against the BBC's proposed new structures.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative

£13000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to a period of sustained an...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering