Grade takes conciliatory line with commercial rivals

BBC chairman Michael Grade threw out some olive branches to advertisers and commercial broadcasters at the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers’ annual conference yesterday (Tuesday).

He admitted: “There is a case… that the BBC has not always been as vigilant as it might have been about its potential… negative effects on its commercial competitors.”

But he said: “The BBC is now doing business in a different way. One of the changes is ensuring that the BBC behaves responsibly towards commercial competitors”.

And he warned that without the BBC’s investment in “high-quality, innovative” television and radio programmes, “the advertiser-supported sector might just be tempted to reduce its own investment in original production.”

His comments follow those of culture secretary Tessa Jowell, as she commented on last week’s publication of the Green Paper on the BBC’s Royal Charter. Jowell said that the BBC must not chase ratings for ratings’ sake.

Grade said he had hoped that the reform programme already put in place by the BBC’s governors would have been “given enough time to prove its worth” before the Government proposed a Trust to replace them in the Green Paper.

And he added: “To those who say that the change from the governors to a BBC Trust is [merely] a change of label, let me say that sitting where I am it doesn’t feel that way. We are going to have to implement a major structural change and that will not be without its challenges.”

So far, the governors have introduced a “public value test” to be applied to proposals put forward by BBC management and are also developing a system of service licences setting out budget, remit and targets for BBC services and channels.

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