In a move that was universally described in the British press as a surprising "coup," ITV, Britain's largest commercial broadcaster, announced today (Tuesday) that Michael Grade, chairman of the rival BBC, will leave the BBC and join ITV as executive chairman. Negotiations with Grade had been carried out in complete secrecy. Newspapers duly noted that he had not even been included in any analyst's list of candidates for the job. The ITV board of directors were described as thrilled with the appointment. The Financial Times described the mood at ITV as "euphoric." On the other hand, the London Telegraph, which was the first to report on the deal with Grade, described the scene at the BBC as "carnage." Reporter Jeff Randall commented, "People are incandescent with rage." The changeover comes as shares in ITV have plummeted as a result of audience defections. Grade took over the helm of the BBC two years ago following the resignation of its previous chairman, Gavin Davies, and its director general, Greg Dyke, in the wake of an investigation into a controversial BBC radio broadcast alleging that a report concerning alleged weapons of mass destruction in Iraq had been "sexed up" in order to make the case for war against Iraq. Grade had been given high marks for effectively restoring the reputation of the BBC. In recent months he has been the primary advocate for an increase in the license fee that all TV and radio set owners in Britain pay to fund the BBC. The increase has been resisted by the British government. News reports said that Grade's deal with ITV calls for him to receive a package likely to be worth more than $20 million over five years -- modest by American CEO standards, but huge by British standards. (The average British CEO earns about $1 million a year versus $8 million for the aver age U.S. CEO.) His base salary at ITV is said to be about $1,600,000, six times his earnings at the BBC, plus numerous incentives. In a statement today, Grade called the offer "an opportunity I could not resist." He added, "My first priority at ITV will be to support the team in accelerating the improvement in programming performance for our viewers and advertisers. This is the best way to enhance the value of the company for our shareholders."




28/11/2006