HE went for the job, not the money, and claims he wasn’t influenced by events at the BBC.
Former BBC chairman Michael Grade is pictured walking into ITV’s HQ in London today, where he has taken the job of executive chairman.
Mr Grade didn’t want to talk about leaving behind the BBC’s licence fee talks with the government. “Not an issue for today,” he said.
But BBC director general Mark Thompson moved quickly to quell fears that the corporation had been left in the lurch – or that the move to Salford might face another question mark because of Mr Grade’s channel switch.
“It’s all very Michael, he’s one of the characters in media,” smiled Mr Thompson (pictured below right).
“The loss of one of the BBC’s players may change the dynamics of the discussion with government – but the issue about the BBC’s future funding is now fundamentally a matter for government.
“We’ve made our case. The government, over the coming weeks, will be deciding what it thinks about the BBC’s funding – I don’t believe that his departure is going to change the essence of that very much.”
He added: “I don’t want to imply it’s settled. It’s not. What’s happening is that the government itself is thinking about its decision.
“And that process is not complete, and I don’t when it’s going to be complete.
“But what I think is true is that Michael has already played a significant part in that and I don’t believe his departure is going to significantly change the outcome.”
Mr Thompson said a government announcement on the licence fee was “probably fairly close” but the timing was a matter for Whitehall.
Felicity Goodey, the interim chief executive of MediaCity:UK, was as surprised as everyone else by Mr Grade’s transfer to ITV.
But she told me this morning that it should make no difference to the BBC move north. “We’re confident that it’s going ahead and it’s all systems go, as far as we’re concerned.”
Although the loss of the BBC chairman creates uncertainty, it also leaves Mr Thompson with a free hand to try and push through the Salford plans.
He has expressed his personal commitment to the project, describing it as a “compelling vision”.
And the director general will now be responsible for concluding the licence fee talks with the government and presenting future options to the BBC governors, or the BBC Trust which takes over on January 1.
That includes the planned £400m move north of five BBC departments and 1,500 staff posts.
So leaving Mr Thompson centre stage may actually benefit Salford’s Media City project.
As he told VIPs at The Lowry earlier this month: “I want to give you an absolute assurance today that if it is achievable, we will achieve it.”
What Next For Salford?