Good news about the BBC — at last!

Good news about the BBC — at last!

Photograph (c) BBC

Michael Grade has been appointed Chairman. This is a terrific appointment — better than I had dreamed possible. Several reasons why this cheers me up:

One, Grade is admired and respected by programme makers as someone who understands creativity and is willing to nurture and defend it. Many years ago, for example, when he was Head of BBC Television, he commissioned and defended the work of Dennis Potter.

Two: he is loathed and despised by the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph. This is always a good test of quality IMHO.

Three: Like me, he is a cigar smoker (see picture). I used to run into him quite a lot when he was Head of Channel Four and I was the Observer‘s Television Critic. I once called on him after Channel Four had moved into their expensive new building on Horseferry Road. It was plastered with stern “This Building is a No Smoking Zone” notices. When I got to his office, I asked whether the ban applied even in his (lavish) suite. “Yes”, he replied solemnly, “even here”. “But”, he went on, “there is a rule that if the people at a meeting vote unanimously to allow smoking, then it is permissible at that meeting”. So he and I duly constituted ourselves as a meeting. Grade proposed the motion to allow smoking. I seconded it. We then held a vote: those in favour — two. Those against: none. Abstentions: none. He then produced a box of Havanas and we smoked and gossiped contentedly.

The BBC is noticeably more po-faced about these things. I wonder if there will be cigar smoke in the Chairman’s suite.