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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 April, 2004, 12:57 GMT 13:57 UK
UK press hails Grade appointment
Michael Grade with original EastEnders cast in 1985
Mr Grade was controller of BBC One when EastEnders launched
Saturday's newspapers gave a warm welcome to Michael Grade's confirmation as the new BBC chairman.

"Right man at the right time", was front-page headline of the Guardian.

"Michael Grade was the best person to lead the BBC at this moment in history and yesterday he was duly confirmed as chairman," said its editorial.

It went on to praise the government which, despite strong opposition from Lord Birt, chose to appoint someone who was "far from being anyone's idea of a push-over".

Mr Grade, "whose populist skills are not in doubt and will continue to be in demand", had made a good start and given a strong hint that "the post-Hutton navel-gazing" was over.

Meanwhile the Independent said: "The appointment of Michael Grade as chairman is the best thing that could have happened to the BBC and represents the corporation's brightest hope of emerging from the crisis that has engulfed it."

It stressed that the renewal of the corporation's Royal Charter in 2006 was Grade's main challenge, and that it was essential for him to maintain "cordial relations" with the government while making sure not to demoralise staff.


Mr Grade's delicate role in "balancing the establishment and its critics" was also highlighted by The Daily Telegraph, which praised him as "a media heavyweight respected by his peers both as a programme-maker and as a charismatic boss".

The paper went on to wonder how wise it may seem to install controversial figure as BBC chairman, but concluded, "for the first time, the government seems to have awarded a crucial public post to by far the best-qualified and most promising candidate".

"Mr Grade now has a chance to shed his nickname and prove himself worthy to be the nation's broadcaster-in-chief", it concluded.

The Daily Mail, which over the past few weeks had engaged in a fierce battle against the appointment of Grade, accusing him of generating "sexploitation programmes" during his stint as head of Channel 4, carried a rather low-key editorial wishing him "best of luck" now that "the deed is done".

"The choice of Mr Grade is a good one," said the Daily Express, which described the appointment as a sign of movement in the "fetid waters surrounding the BBC".

It added that "he knows the television industry as well as anyone and is tough enough to withstand pressure from a government increasingly desperate to blame 'the media' for its woes".

While praising Grade as a "clever man, with immense experience in broadcasting and a flair for presentation", The Times warned that the mistakes surrounding the Andrew Gilligan affair "were not an isolated incident" and reflected "an enduring cultural problem".

The public as well as politicians would have to be satisfied that the BBC still offered something "that is special", and that its values remained "those of service, not smugness".

It was crucial that he could convince all concerned, "by word and deed, that the BBC has not acquired a different sort of chairman in order to stay the same".

But the Daily Mirrror's editorial was concise and enthusiastic.

"If you had to draw an identikit picture of the perfect BBC chairman, if would have Michael Grade's qualities.

"He is taking over what would be a difficult job at any time. Today it is alomost impossible. But if anyone can save the BBC, it is Michael Grade".

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



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