New Ofcom Chairman And Critic Of 'Woke Warriors' Praises Laurence Fox

Lord Michael Grade, the prospective head of the media watchdog, thinks there is a "wonderful" debate going on.
Newly-announced Ofcom chairman Lord Michael Grade appearing before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee at the Commons.
Newly-announced Ofcom chairman Lord Michael Grade appearing before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee at the Commons.
House of Commons via PA Wire/PA Images

Newly-announced Ofcom chairman Lord Michael Grade has dodged questions on his criticism of the “woke brigade” as he spoke of his admiration of Laurence Fox, the actor who has made his name as a self-styled “anti-woke” campaigner.

The 79-year-old Conservative peer, who has held senior positions at all three of the UK’s major media outlets, appeared before the digital, culture, media and sport committee on Thursday for pre-appointment scrutiny, after being named the government’s preferred candidate for the post.

The broadcasting veteran has previously described Ofcom staff as “woke warrior apparatchiks” when the media watchdog was investigating Talking Pictures TV for showing a repeat of the 1970s comedy Rogue’s Rock, in which a white actor appeared in blackface.

When questioned by MPs, Lord Grade said his opinion on “woke issues” was “best kept to myself”. When asked by committee member John Nicolson, from the SNP, to define the word “woke”, Grade said: “It’s a wonderful debate that’s going on in the country. A very lively debate. It covers a range of topics, philosophies and attitudes.”

Lord Grade said he “admired” Fox, the former Lewis star from a famed acting dynasty whose political views have drawn criticism, particularly over Covid disinformation.

He said: “I admire his courage. I have known his family. His grandfather and my father were partners in business going back a long way.

“I admire his courage in speaking out and contributing to the debate. I don’t necessarily agree with what he says, but I admire him speaking out.”

The peer also admitted he does not use Facebook, Instagram or TikTok, although he has WhatsApp to communicate with his family.

Nicolson challenged him over an apparent “lack of engagements with such an important part of contemporary life” and suggested this would “prove problematic” because his new role required such an understanding.

Lord Grade responded: “I wouldn’t say I have no experience at all. I have three kids. I have a 23-year-old student son who is never off his screen.”

He then added to the committee: “I do understand the dynamics.”

“The important thing as chairman of Ofcom, we can’t be experts of every aspect of the turf that Ofcom has to patrol.

“What we have to do is ensure that we have access to the best brains that we can hire and the best advisers and the best expertise that we can to make sure we have a match for what’s going on in those sectors.”

During his career, Lord Grade has served as controller of BBC One, chief executive of Channel 4, chairman of the BBC and executive chairman of ITV.

He currently sits as a Conservative peer in the House of Lords after being appointed by David Cameron in 2011.

If confirmed as Ofcom chairman he will move to the cross-benches and give up any non-executive roles that could cause a conflict of interest.


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