British broadcasting heavyweight Michael Grade, who has overseen every major UK broadcaster, has been appointed Chair of media and broadcasting regulator Ofcom, bringing to an end an at-times controversial hiring process that has been running for more than a year.
Grade, a former BBC Controller and Chair, ITV Executive Chair and Channel 4 CEO who is also a Conservative Life Peer, will be recommended by the government’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, a formality that will be rubberstamped over the next few weeks at which point he will succeed interim chair Maggie Carver.
The 79-year-old is a British broadcasting heavyweight, well known in media circles, and his uncle Lew was an ITV Founder.
Grade and a consortium had also been linked to a takeover bid of Channel 4 if the network is privatized and he has been public with his criticism of the UK’s Public Service Broadcasting sector, advocating the shrinking of the BBC license fee and saying it is “perfectly legitimate” to question the existence of the PSBs.
One senior industry source with knowledge of the situation described him as the “opposite” of former Ofcom Chairs who were tight-lipped with their personal views.
“To appoint someone who has preconceived ideas about the entities that they are going to regulate is a curious and interesting approach,” added the source. “His strident views are not supported by the public or parliament and he will find once he starts that he has his hands full.”
The source said Grade will be “singing from the same hymn sheet” as Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, who has also been public with her criticism of the BBC.
Grade takes over the UK’s media and broadcasting regulator at a crucial time, with Ofcom overseeing landmark changes to laws on online safety and colossal shifts in the broadcasting landscape. Ofcom has been regulating the BBC for several years and the relationship has at times been tested.
The race to replace former Chair Terry Burns has been a bumpy one.
Former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre was a preference of the Conservative government but he was judged “inappropriate” by a selection panel due to his impartial views and the process had to start again. Deadline