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Last Updated: Friday, 14 July 2006, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
Grade defends BBC's independence
BBC Chairman Michael Grade
Michael Grade answered questions from the public at the AGM
BBC chairman Michael Grade has defended the corporation's independence at the Governors' Annual General Meeting.

Asked if party politics affected the broadcaster, Mr Grade said: "The BBC is like China - it has been invaded many times but it has not been conquered."

He added: "The BBC, if it's not independent, is not worth tuppence of your licence money."

About 150 licence fee payers attended the AGM in Norwich, with many raising concerns over programme quality.

Before the event, more than 200 questions were sent in to the governors' website.

Issues raised included the use of bad language in peak-time programmes, the value of digital services, and the use of background music.

'Low standards'

Faced with criticism of low standards in BBC shows, Mr Grade said: "It is my judgement that the quality of BBC programming is beginning to improve overall quite markedly.

"There is a lot of weeding going on every year.

"There aren't going to be any more lifestyle programmes on the BBC unless they are very innovative and exceptional."

One member of the public was critical of the number of American films shown on BBC One and BBC Two.

In response, Grade said: "There has been quite a dramatic reduction over the last 10 years in the use of American material".

"It would be nice to see more world cinema... and, I agree, more British films on the BBC would be welcome."

Governors replaced

Appearing on the panel alongside Mr Grade were vice-chairman Anthony Salz, and governors Jeremy Peat, Ranjit Sondhi and Deborah Bull.

Director general Mark Thompson and his deputy, Mark Byford, were also on hand to help answer questions.

The BBC's Board of Governors will be replaced at the end of 2006 with a new body called the BBC Trust.

It is intended to be more removed from BBC management and more accountable to licence fee payers.

Three current governors, as well as chairman Michael Grade, will stay on to take positions with the Trust.

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