The chairman of the BBC has today dramatically resigned and been appointed as commercial rival ITV's executive chairman with immediate effect.
ITV said Michael Grade's decision represented a "real coup", with the BBC expressing both surprise and disappointment at the turn of events.
Mr Grade today insisted that his switch across channels was purely a career move, but his exit comes as legislation concerning licence-fee rises passes through parliament, while the new ITV executive chairman was due to head the BBC Trust in the new year, which itself will replace the corporation's board of governors.
ITV, currently subject to ongoing takeover rumours, has been without a chief executive at the helm since Charles Allen resigned this autumn, and the commercial broadcaster today said it intended to appoint someone responsible for day-to-day management of the business within three years.
Describing the opportunity to join ITV as a "great privilege", Mr Grade explained that his first priority was to improve the company's programming.
He also sent a letter to BBC staff shortly after confirmation of the move was made to the London Stock Exchange (LSE), which added: "Looking back over the past two and a half years, I can say I have never felt so privileged, never felt such a responsibility, and never felt so proud."
Responding to the chairman's exit, Chitra Bharucha, who will act as interim chairman of the BBC Trust, said: "All of us recently appointed to the BBC Trust are disappointed we will not have an opportunity to work with Michael Grade."
And acting on behalf of the BBC board of governors, vice chairman Anthony Salz described Mr Grade as an "inspirational leader".
He went on to say: "His passion for quality and value for money has been a driving influence for major changes, all with the sole purpose of delivering a better service for the public.
"The board is disappointed he is moving to ITV, but he leaves behind a BBC that is passionate about and committed to serving the public in new and exciting ways."