Ofcom “cannot and should not regulate the culture wars,” Michael Grade, the new Chair of the UK broadcasting regulator, has said.
Grade, a broadcasting veteran who has overseen BBC One, ITV and Channel 4 across a 50-year career, said Ofcom’s focus will be on allowing important debates to be conducted in an open-minded fashion.
“When important debates cross the line and are conducted with prejudice or a tone bordering on hateful, we all lose something,” Grade told RTS London. “When debate instead with respect and an open mind, we bring people together and and find answers that move us forward. I have found that tone is everything.”
Pressed on his comments, Grade said he was mainly discussing “interview style,” citing when Conservative leadership hopeful Rishi Sunak was asked whether he was “slick and rich” during his campaign.
Grade, who became Chair last year following a lengthy and controversial appointments process and is a Conservative Life Peer, stressed that the regulator “cannot and should not regulate the culture wars.”
He pointed out that only 29 shows were found in breach of the Ofcom Code last year, a tiny proportion of the 11,000 complaints it received. “We didn’t intervene in legitimate debate,” he added.
“This is about tone and language,” he went on to say. “Some of the great interviewers don’t have to overstate or use aggressive language. We need to understand and test, and get the tone right.”
Grade was speaking as Ofcom prepares to receive new powers to regulate the streaming services in the UK.
He praised the UK’s Public Service Broadcasters for “being able to do things others cannot, a place where culture meets commerce.”
In the past, he has made clear he backs the controversial sale of Channel 4 in the past and was rumored to be leading a consortium to buy the network prior to taking the Ofcom role.