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Last Updated: Friday, 2 April, 2004, 16:41 GMT 17:41 UK
Grade says BBC must serve public
Michael Grade at BBC press conference
Grade was welcomed with huge applause by BBC staff
New BBC chairman Michael Grade pledged that the corporation would "serve the licence-paying public right across the UK" in a speech after his appointment.

Setting out his views on the job on Friday, Mr Grade also promised to look at the role of BBC governors and defend the BBC's quality and independence.

A former BBC Television and Channel 4 boss, he replaces Gavyn Davies, who resigned after the Hutton Report.

He will start the job on 17 May and help appoint a new director general.

As chairman, he will head the board of governors - who have traditionally acted as both regulators and defenders of BBC programmes.

Michael Grade

On the subject of the BBC's future funding, regulation and independence, he said:

  • "I remain committed to the licence fee as the best means of funding the BBC for the foreseeable future.

  • "The regulatory role of the board of governors is in urgent need of clarification, if not repair. In practice, this means a greater separation between the executive and the governors.

  • "The editorial independence of the BBC is paramount in maintaining the support of the viewers and listeners. Without it, there is no point to the BBC."

    He also said the BBC should be a place where everyone could find home-grown radio, TV and online services "of quality and diversity, reflecting the full range of their interests, passions and concerns".

    Mr Grade, 61, declined to make any specific comments about the findings of the Hutton Report.

    Everybody pays the licence fee and everybody is entitled to entertainment programmes
    Michael Grade
    There had been "anguish" in the BBC over the findings, but this had not diminished the quality of the corporation's reporting, he said.

    And he hoped his appointment could mean staff would "look forward and not backward".

    He also defended decisions to make entertainment programmes that competed for high ratings - but said the BBC was about "more than just winning the time-slot".

    "Everybody pays the licence fee and everybody is entitled to entertainment programmes.

    "It is when you start copying programmes - that is when it starts to be questionable for the BBC."

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    He sought to reassure the public the BBC would not chase ratings with low-quality programming.

    "If we achieve those ratings with Only Fools and Horses, then it's trebles all round. But if you have a 20m quiz giveaway show, I'm sorry that's not acceptable - that's buying ratings."

    On Friday, the BBC announced the search for the BBC's new director general would be frozen until Mr Grade officially started his job.

    Applications to become director general have already closed, and he was asked if he would re-open the search.

    Mr Grade would only say: "I will do whatever is necessary to ensure we attract the right candidate. We have to get the right person for the job."

    1964: Sports columnist, Daily Mirror
    1966: Theatrical agent, London
    1973: Deputy controller of entertainment programmes, LWT
    1984: Controller, BBC One
    1986: Director of programmes, BBC Television
    1988: Chief executive, Channel 4
    1997: Chief executive, First Leisure
    1999: Chairman, Pinewood-Shepperton studios
    2001: Chairman, Camelot
    During his time as chief executive of Channel 4, Mr Grade was not afraid of controversy, being labelled "pornographer-in-chief" by the Daily Mail.

    He comes from a showbusiness family, having television mogul Lord Grade, a pioneer of ITV, as his uncle.

    As well as being director of programmes at London Weekend Television and BBC Television, he went on to head the merged Pinewood and Shepperton film studios.

    As BBC One controller in the 1980s, he launched top-rating soap EastEnders - but axed sci-fi favourite Doctor Who.

    On Friday, he declared he had no political interests and had never made any donations to any political parties.

    He would give up many of his former commercial interests, including the board of the lottery operator Camelot and media company SMG, he added.

    But he will retain his non-executive chairmanship of Pinewood Shepperton and the chairmanship of Hemscott Group Plc.

    The BBC's Nick Higham
    "Michael Grade said the BBC had been badly battered"



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