Michael Grade leaps from BBC to ITV

Michael Grade has resigned as BBC Chairman to take the helm of troubled UK broadcaster ITV in a move that has wowed industry watchers...

Media analysts, commentators and city traders were caught completely by surprise as news of the BBC Chairman's leap spread shortly before midnight on Monday.

It was widely thought the top job at ITV would go to former chief executive of Ofcom, Stephen Carter, chief executive of United International Pictures, Stewart Till or the former Channel 4 chief executive, Michael Jackson.

In a letter to staff at the BBC, Grade said he had been left with "the choice of getting back into programming or 'governing' the BBC from a distance."

"I would like everyone to understand this is a career decision," he wrote.

"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."

Grade joined the Daily Mirror in 1960 as a sports journalist and, in 1966, went into the family theatrical agency.

In 1973 he became an executive at London Weekend Television before becoming Controller of BBC ONE in 1984, and Director of Programmes in 1986.

He was to be paid £140,000 a year plus expenses for a four-day week heading the BBC Trust at the beginning of 2007.

ITV, Britain's largest commercial broadcaster had been searching for a new boss following the summer departure of chief executive Charles Allen.

Satellite broadcaster BSkyB shocked the financial world on Friday 17 November by buying a 17.9% stake in ITV for £940m.

NTL's largest shareholder, Sir Richard Branson, attacked the power of Rupert Murdoch, the owner of BSkyB, and urged the government to "stand up" to him.

He said Mr Murdoch's media empire meant he had the power to choose the country's Prime Minister and the extent of his ownership meant "we have got rid of democracy in this country".

Apart from the battle over ownership of the broadcaster, Grade can expect to have hs hands full with the company's finances too.

In August, revenues at ITV1 — its main channel and largest earner — fell eight per cent to £654m in the first six months of the year.