Son of Leslie Grade, a theatrical agent, he started as a journalist and moved to TV in 1973, namely London Weekend Television. There he commissioned (and later canned) Mind Your Language (a controversial show about an English-As-A-Second-Language class), The Professionals, and The South Bank Show.
He moved to the BBC in 1984 as Controller of BBC 1, where he proceeded to cancel Doctor Who, bring it back 18 months later after an public outcry, sack Colin Baker, and put the show up against Coronation Street (his successor, Jonathan Powell, eventually brought down the axe in 1989). He also canned the Tripods trilogy before Part 3 could be produced, turning it into a duology with a Downer Ending.
Moving to Channel 4 in 1987, he was accused of dumbing-down and was dubbed "pornographer-in-chief" by The Daily Mail. He left in 1999. A certain infamous satirical show mocked him by inserting a few frames stating he was a cunt while there.
In 2004, following the Hutton Inquiry, he became Chairman of the BBC Board of Governors. There he had to consume much humble pie after the spectacular success of the Doctor Who revival.
In 2007, he became Chairman of ITV, which is currently suffering from insane cash-flow problems under his reign. He then stepped down into a lower position in 2009.
Grade holds the distinction of being the only BBC controller who was not knighted by the Queen, mainly because she's a huge fan of Doctor Who and he screwed with it. However, he did become a Life Peer, as Baron Grade of Yarmouth, at David Cameron's behest (he was something of an obvious choice for a new Conservative Peer).