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Polly Toynbee: The BBC must not be led by the shock tactics of the Mail

Bernard Levin, latterday Voltaire, dies at 75

Obituary: Bernard Levin

'The BNP hijacked my film'

Channel 4 to screen film 'hijacked' by BNP

Justin Lewis: At the service of politicians

Mark Lawson: A political football

Shift of emphasis on BBC board

Hollick says government backs TV merger talks

Oliver Burkeman: My brilliant inquiry, by lord of controversy

Special report: politics and the media

Grade picked as new BBC chairman

Matt Wells, media correspondent
Friday April 2, 2004
The Guardian

Michael Grade, the media mogul dubbed "pornographer in chief" when he was running Channel 4, is to be the new chairman of the BBC.

Tessa Jowell, the culture secretary, made the choice from a final shortlist that is believed to have contained three names. A formal announcement is expected today. Mr Grade is expected to give up his stake in Pinewood and Shepperton studios, the flotation of which he announced yesterday.

The announcement is likely to cause controversy: Mr Grade is a flamboyant iconoclast who does not find favour in all quarters. He is also known to a member of the independent panel that interviewed him and other candidates on March 24: Sir George Russell, a director of ITV, was responsible for persuading Mr Grade to join the board of the lottery operator, Camelot.

Despite the drawbacks, Mr Grade is seen as a charismatic candidate who could lead the BBC out of the turbulence following the Hutton report, which led to the resignation of Gavyn Davies as chairman and Greg Dyke as director general, and guide the corporation through the renewal of its royal charter and its repositioning in the age of multi-channel television.

Mr Grade knows the BBC well: before moving to Channel 4 he was in charge of BBC1, when he commissioned landmark works from Dennis Potter and Alan Bleasdale, as well as being responsible for the scheduling of the newly launched soap EastEnders.

The appointment required the ratification of the prime minister, the privy council and the Queen. Other leading candidates included the former BBC vice-chairman Lady Young and the broadcaster David Dimbleby.

One of Mr Grade's first tasks will be to take control of the appointment of a successor to Mr Dyke as director general. The Guardian has learned that interviews for the post will be held on Tuesday.

Two candidates from within the BBC will face the interview panel: Mark Byford, acting director general, and Jenny Abramsky, director of radio. At least one candidate will be interviewed from outside the BBC. It is thought to be Tony Hall, executive director of the Royal Opera House and former director of news and current affairs at the BBC under Lord Birt. Mr Hall was an unsuccessful candidate for director general the last time round.

Some leading broadcasting figures have declined to apply for the position, because the closing date for applications came before the appointment of a new chairman.

"Why would you apply for a job when you don't know who your boss is going to be?" said one potential candidate who did not apply. Mr Grade is expected to reopen the process, described as a "charade" by another person who could have been expected to apply.

Mr Grade and his new director general will have to heal the divisions caused by the Hutton report. The disciplinary process launched in the wake of the report has caused much rancour. "It is tearing people apart," said one senior BBC figure last night.

But Mr Byford denied this week that it was unfair. "It would be a travesty if after everything that's happened, the BBC simply carried on as normal," he said in a speech to the Foreign Press Association.

It is unclear how Mr Grade's appointment will affect Mr Byford's chances of getting the job permanently.

Mr Byford was a protege of Lord Birt, but Mr Grade left the BBC in controversial circumstances in 1988 after falling out with Lord Birt, who as John Birt was then deputy director general.

 Related articles
02.04.2004: Grade picked as new BBC chairman
28.03.2004: Will the BBC make it Grade?
19.03.2004: Profile: Michael Grade
23.03.2004: Grade faces BBC interview panel
15.12.2003: Grade in line for knighthood
22.09.2003: Grade hits out at ITV's public service credentials
18.09.2003: Grade joins Robot Wars producer
14.07.2003: Grade returns to TV
23.04.2003: Curtain falls on Grade's Canadian ambitions
23.09.2002: Grade: I don't want your cast-offs
08.02.2002: Grade and Scott brothers set up in Toronto
03.10.2001: Grade joins Camelot
15.08.2001: 2001: Grade makes BBC shortlist
04.05.2001: 2001: Grade craves BBC chair

 Chair and DG appointments
31.03.2004: Ryder leaves another top BBC post vacant
01.04.2004: Byford defends his record
31.03.2004: Search for BBC DG 'a charade'
30.03.2004: BBC director general to remain editor-in-chief
25.03.2004: BBC 'needs captains of industry'
24.03.2004: Is this the worst-kept secret in television?
23.03.2004: Bomb scare disrupts BBC interviews
23.03.2004: Watson interviewed for BBC chairman
22.03.2004: Lambert ruled out of BBC race
22.03.2004: ITV's Russell to help select BBC chairman
19.03.2004: Six on shortlist for BBC chairman
11.03.2004: Dimbleby on shortlist for BBC chairman
05.03.2004: Flood of applicants for BBC chair
03.03.2004: Sony boss declines BBC chair
19.02.2004: Thompson hedges his bets over return to BBC
19.02.2004: Tories shun BBC chairman scrutiny panel
18.02.2004: Birt ally to head BBC review
19.02.2004: Who's in charge of the BBC?
16.02.2004: BBC finance chief in running for top job
02.02.2004: Cross-party panel to oversee BBC appointment
16.02.2004: David Liddiment: 'The governors are the problem'
02.02.2004: Emily Bell: Media pro must get job
30.01.2004: Runners and riders for BBC's top job
30.01.2004: Who are the governors?

 BBC post Hutton
19.03.2004: Dyke questioned by BBC inquiry
04.03.2004: Top BBC resignations astonished Hutton
01.03.2004: BBC acts to quell inquiry fears
01.03.2004: Top broadcasters urge end to BBC's Hutton apologies
27.02.2004: BBC begins search for director general
23.02.2004: What the Tories may do to the BBC
23.02.2004: How the BBC is reacting to pressure
12.02.2004: Hutton is our Jayson Blair, says BBC news chief
06.02.2004: Byford strikes cautious note
06.02.2004: Plan to mount legal challenge abandoned
05.02.2004: BBC bosses set to blame it all on 'off-piste' Gilligan
04.02.2004: Ryder pledges to stand up for BBC
03.02.2004: BBC delays charter review proposals
02.02.2004: Uphill battle for new BBC regime
02.02.2004: Byford: 'We must come out of this stronger'
02.02.2004: So what now for the BBC?
30.01.2004: BBC to launch Gilligan inquiry
30.01.2004: Corporation must not flinch, say MPs

 Greg Dyke
26.03.2004: Dyke: I was fired by BBC governors
06.02.2004: Dyke signs book deal with Murdoch
02.02.2004: Dyke rules out legal action
03.02.2004: Dyke reins in criticism but remains angry
30.01.2004: Dyke: Hutton 'wrong' and Campbell 'ungracious'
29.01.2004: BBC staff protest at Dyke exit
29.01.2004: Greg Dyke resigns
29.01.2004: Profile: Man who came in from the cold
29.01.2004: 'Dyke hoped governors would reject resignation'

 Gavyn Davies
06.02.2004: Davies weighs libel case against Campbell
28.01.2004: Gavyn Davies resigns
28.01.2004: Resignation statement by Gavyn Davies
29.01.2004: How chairman Davies lost his game of risk
28.01.2004: BBC chairman 'considering his position'
28.01.2004: BBC bosses fear worst-case scenario

 Birt attack
06.02.2004: Resentment behind Birt attack, say BBC staff
05.02.2004: Birt attacks governors over Iraq report errors
04.02.2004: Birt blames BBC crisis on 'sophistry' and 'slipshod' journalism

 Staff discontent
05.02.2004: BBC staff take to the streets
01.02.2004: Civil war splits BBC as staff turn on Ryder
30.01.2004: BBC stars back defiant media campaign

30.01.2004: Beeb in a bind over regulation
30.01.2004: Media grapple with dilemma of guidelines
30.01.2004: The Guardian's post Hutton guidelines for journalists

 Comment and analysis
01.04.2004: Timothy Garton Ash: Don't bury this treasure
01.02.2004: Peter Preston: A week for long knives and short memories
02.02.2004: Roy Greenslade: Crisis? What crisis?
30.01.2004: Jon Snow: 'There but for the grace of God go all of us'
30.01.2004: Tim Gardam: We must not destroy this worthy asset

 Special reports
The BBC: a corporation in crisis
Hutton report: full coverage

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