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Legendary television executive Lord Grade shares stories from an extraordinary career behind the curtain of British TV

About This Episode

Our guest today has been described as the lord of UK TV – and he certainly has the CV to match. Lord Michael Grade is the television executive who has left an indelible mark on British television, in an industry career that spans almost 50 years. From a role as deputy controller at London Weekend Television, he has since taken the reigns at the BBC on two occasions as its controller and chairman respectively, as well as 10 years as CEO of Channel 4 and executive chairman of ITV. Known for getting the job done, he was inspired at a young age by his showbiz family, and today is still ensuring that the show must go on – most recently providing his expertise to a government panel on the future of public service broadcasting. The man who hated Dr Who, commissioned Eastenders and poached Brucie from the BBC, his is a life of stories from behind the curtain.

Lord Michael Grade CBE, Television Executive

For Michael Grade, a distinguished and highly successful career in showbusiness appeared to be in the genes. Born in 1943 in London, England, his father was Leslie Grade and his uncles were Lew Grade and Bernard Delfont. Michael became a trainee journalist on the Daily Mirror in 1960, before becoming deputy controller of entertainment programmes at London Weekend Television in 1973. In 1984, he gained one of the most prestigious positions in British broadcasting when he became controller of BBC One and BBC TV’s director of programmes two years later. In 1988, he was named chief executive at Channel 4, responsible for bringing ER and Friends to British TV. He left in 1997 and has since taken major roles at numerous companies, including Ocado, Camelot and the Millennium Dome project. He was appointed chairman of the BBC in 2004 and executive chairman of ITV in 2007. His remarkably successful career in broadcasting was recognised by a CBE in 1998, and a life peerage in 2011.

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Lockdown List

What is a book that changed your life?

The Diary of Anne Frank

What are you watching at the moment?


Who is your biggest inspiration and why?

My dad and his two brothers. Work ethic, honourable – I could go on and on…

In one sentence, describe your ‘new normal’.

Watching sport on TV between Zoom calls

What is your best tip for life?

Just be nice to everyone

Name your top five ‘Lockdown tracks’

Beethoven – Eroica Symphony; Puccini – Madame Butterfly; Tchaikovsky 6th Symphony; Mahler – Ruckert Lieder; Barbara Cooke And Samuel Ramey – Singing If I Loved You From Carousel; Brahms Intermezzi For Solo Piano


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