Interestingly BBC News 24 are running Stephen Sackur’s HARDtalk, and only acknowledge the Grade story once every five minutes in the middle of the scrolling news at the bottom of the screen.
Meanwhile, Sky News must be regretting having booked Syed Ahmed (from this year’s BBC2 Apprentice) and Steven Norris for the late night paper review section. Ahmed has been in a BBC programme, and has featured in news and gossip in the press, but isn’t insightful into its running. Norris is making a better job of it.
For about half an hour, Sky have barely drawn breath, broadcasting a constant verbiage of Grade comment and speculation.
Media stories seem to over-dominate the news agenda. So other than making sure that the UK mediaocracy all tune into Sky and remember that the story broke there first (rather than on the BBC, or in the Telegraph tomorrow morning), is it justified?
The BBC is a large employer. The vast majority of UK households are licence payers, effectively shareholders, benefiting from the radio/TV/online output of the BBC. So the shock resignation of a major company’s chairman and his move to one of the main commercial rivals (what’s the pecking order between Sky and ITV?) is probably in the public interest. But let’s hope it doesn’t become the only story. (The BBC have now moved onto report the death of DJ Alan "Fluff" Freeman as the breaking news.)
Tuesday Update: The BBC’s Press Release this morning includes the email that went out to all BBC staff this morning from Mark Thompson (the Director-General, CEO in normal money). Thompson’s email had Michael Grade’s farewell email tagged on the bottom—the problem with your resignation taking immediate effect is that you lose your ability to communicate with your old staff rather fast. Grade’s closing remarks:
“ITV is a competitor to the BBC, yes. BUT the BBC does need ITV to be strong, both for competitive reasons and to maintain the balance of power within British public service broadcasting. So I leave with the feeling that I have done the best I can to secure the future of the institution about which I will always care so deeply, I leave with some sadness because of all the friends old and new who have been my support over the past two and a half years. What I won't miss is the BBC sandwiches at meetings. They have taken re-cycling to new heights. But I digress ...
In a speech I made when I was CEO at Channel 4 I included the words: 'It's the BBC that keeps the rest of the industry honest.' That is as true today as it ever was. I am off to a new challenge, maybe at 63 my last real job, and hopefully give you a run for your money. That's how it should be. Look after Auntie, I am sure you won't need me again. And thank you for having me.”
The only time I saw Michael Grade face to face was at the Quiz the Governors accountability meeting in Belfast in April. He did come across as being more of a programme maker than a bureaucrat. He was much more comfortable explaining to the audience about camera and teleprompters—the mechanics of the night and being in a live studio—and justifying the broadcaster’s output to the NI audience.