Fincham was the man in charge at BBC One who sparked a diplomatic incident by falsely claiming the Queen had stormed out of a film shoot in a huff – and ultimately paid with his job. Now he’s been hired by ITV chairman Grade to turn around the channel’s fortunes, as director of television.
It’s the latest attempt by Grade – the cover star of MT’s March issue – to shake up the top team at ITV, which he joined as chairman in 2006. When we spoke to Grade last month, he was putting a brave face on things despite ITV’s share price slide. ‘By any definition the business is on the way up. It’s less difficult now I’ve got the people in place – I’ve recruited a team of Galacticos in every department’. So presumably, Fincham is the David Beckham-esque finishing touch (and less likely to feature in underwear ads).
Prior to the events of last year, Fincham had a pretty impressive track record in television. After two decades with independent production company Talkback, where he rose to chief executive while overseeing hits like X Factor and Jamie’s Kitchen, he took the BBC One job in 2005 after the company merged with Thames. And he had some big successes there – notably the popular return of Doctor Who.
Then it all started to go a bit pear-shaped. At the channel’s autumn launch last July, he showed a trailer for a documentary about the Queen suggesting she had stormed out of a shoot. It was great publicity for the BBC, making headlines round the world – but unfortunately it turned out that the clip had been edited out of sequence. Coupled with the infamous ‘Blue Peter cat’ scandal (where a viewer poll was fixed) and the phone-in scandals at Comic Relief and Sport Relief, it turned into an annus horribilis for the BBC – and Fincham was soon out of the door.
Now he has the tricky job of reviving the ailing ITV. The channel’s probably in better shape than it was this time last year, thanks to the (relative success) of shows like Echo Beach and the marked drop in rubbish reality and CCTV shows. But it’s got a long way to go.
Still, Grade clearly has the stomach for the fight – he’s just agreed to extend his ITV contract until 2010. And if you’re trying to distance yourself from reality TV, what better way than to hire a man a man forced out of his last job for making something up?
Click here for a sneak preview of MT’s exclusive interview with Michael Grade. The March issue is out next week.