Ex-BBC chairman Lord Grade says broadcaster's tone is 'disrespectful'

Ex-BBC chairman Lord Grade says the broadcaster’s tone is ‘disrespectful, gleeful and aggressive’ when covering Partygate scandal and other political issues

  • Lord Michael Grade, 78, said the BBC’s tone in covering Partygate is ‘gleeful’
  • He said broadcaster is right to hold PM to account but there’s a ‘macho culture’ 
  • Lord Grade said the tone of the BBC is ‘disrespectful’ in reporting on the issue

The former head of the BBC, who has also held top jobs at the Channel 4 and ITV, has criticised the national broadcaster’s coverage of certain political events, saying the tone is ‘gleeful and disrespectful’.

Lord Michael Grade, 78, said the corporation was right to hold the government to account but added that its ‘macho culture’ was ‘unnecessary’ in covering the Partygate scandal.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph he said: ‘The tone is too aggressive. “Are you lying to the British public?” It makes them sound as if they’ve made up their minds, which I don’t think they have, but it’s: “We’ve got a story – we’re going to nail this b******”.

Lord Michael Grade (pictured), 78, said the corporation was right to hold the government to account but added that its ‘macho culture’ was ‘unnecessary’

‘Take the BBC’s coverage of the current political crisis. It’s the lead story, of course – I’m not questioning their news values.

‘Nor am I questioning the BBC’s objectivity, and the reason I don’t is that if you talk to Jeremy Corbyn…he would think the media were a nest of vipers because they gave him a hard time, and very rightly, over anti-Semitism.

‘The BBC was on that story in the same way they’re now on the Partygate story. 

‘They’re right to hold the Prime Minister to account. I have no problem with that.

‘But there seems to be a sense at the BBC that if you ask difficult questions politely, your colleagues are going to say: “You let him or her off the hook”.

‘It’s a macho culture. It’s unnecessary, and I don’t like it.’

Lord Grade currently sits as a Conservative peer in the House of Lords after being appointed by David Cameron in 2010.

The former head of the BBC, who has also held top jobs at the Channel 4 and ITV, has criticised the national broadcaster’s coverage of certain political events (file photo used)

He also admitted that he has ‘kept my hat in the ring’ for the position of Ofcom chief executive, after having had ‘second thoughts’ about applying.

The process to fill the senior position at the media regulator has faced a series of delays since it began two years ago and is now being rerun after an initial round of interviews failed to find a suitable candidate.

Former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre was reportedly Boris Johnson’s preferred choice during the initial interviews, but he withdrew from the race, claiming the civil service had influenced the process because of his right-of-centre ‘convictions’.

‘I became suspicious of the process, until I realised Sue Gray was back in charge of the appointment after her Partygate exertions,’ Lord Grade said.

‘I was fully reassured and am now happy to keep my hat in the ring.’

In the past Lord Grade has also expressed views about Ofcom itself. In February last year, he wrote to the broadcasting watchdog warning it must not ‘take sides in the culture war’ by banning blackface on TV

Speaking of the BBC’s Partygate coverage, Lord Grade said: ‘They’re right to hold the Prime Minister (pictured) to account. I have no problem with that’

Lord Grade said the watchdog must not be seen to be taking sides in the ‘culture war’ as it investigated whether Talking Pictures TV breached standards by showing an episode of 70s comedy series Rogue’s Rock on Boxing Day 2020, featuring ‘blacked-up’ actors.

In the letter seen by the Daily Telegraph Lord Grade said: ‘It risks Ofcom being seen to take sides in the national debate, or culture war as some might describe it. Worse, it risks ridicule.

‘There is a national debate raging about how we acknowledge our past, in statues, in historic buildings and museums etc. Some of this debate is healthy, some not.

‘What next? Will Ofcom want to see Olivier’s Richard III banned since he only pretended to be physically handicapped?’

He said deciding to investigate and potentially fine the channel ‘is a serious error of judgement and a very worrying precedent’.

Lord Grade has previously said Ofcom should not be seen ‘to take sides’ in a ‘national debate or culture war’. Pictured: Ofcom headquarters at Riverside House in London

Ultimately, Ofcom’s investigation found that no breach of standards had occurred.  

Earlier this year, the former BBC chairman warned the £159 licence fee was ‘too much money’ as he suggested BBC2 and BBC4 could be abolished to cut costs.

Lord Grade, who was also said the sum ‘may not be a lot for Gary Lineker’ but it was for ordinary Britons, as he called the annual, universal levy ‘a regressive tax’.

The Tory peer’s intervention came as Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries signalled the licence fee will be scrapped after 2027 as part of the Prime Minister’s policy blitz dubbed Operation Red Meat, which aims to deflect from the Partygate row.

Lord Grade had told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘£159 a year may not be a lot of money for Gary Lineker but it’s a heck of a lot for many people in this country when there is inflation, an energy crisis and so on. It’s too much money.

‘The BBC in the entirety of its history has always asked for more money at every licence fee settlement.

‘It has done well cutting its costs over the last few years, but what it’s never done is given up any turf. Why do we need BBC2 and BBC4? I don’t understand it. The BBC is a bit like the monarchy, it is designed to survive and grow.’

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