The media mogul, a daily diet of D-listers and the truth about Celebrity Big Brother

The new series is a key part of Richard Desmond's masterly strategy. Adam Sherwin reports

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The Independent Online

Sally Bercow is bidding to become MP for Brighton. Kerry Katona has a new job as a celebrity wedding planner. Amy Childs is running the beauty salon of her dreams. If these developments had passed you by, it could be because the D-list personalities and their daily exploits are the sole property of Richard Desmond and a burgeoning media empire, which is raising cross-promotion to a new art.

After a year in which Rupert Murdoch has been humbled, Desmond, owner of the Northern & Shell group, may feel entitled to puff on a celebratory cigar at his Thames-side eyrie.

His £103.5m purchase of Channel 5 has begun to reap rewards with the revived Celebrity Big Brother eating into Channel 4's youth audience. The new series, which begins tonight, is set to give Reservoir Dogs star Michael Madsen and X Factor also-ran Frankie Cocozza a welcome career boost. A 2012 windfall is anticipated from Manchester's "big two" football clubs crashing into the secondary Europa League, which is screened live on the channel. The Sunday editions of his Daily Express and Daily Star newspapers are thriving, with circul- ation soaring by 23 per cent and 98 per cent respectively, following the demise of the News of the World.

The former soft porn publisher's adult satellite channels continue to boost profits, which tripled this year, however uncomfortably they sit alongside Desmond's latest venture, a Health Lottery which the tycoon claims will deliver £50m a year to good causes.

However, it is Desmond's ability to create his own stable of micro-celebrities, who star in bespoke Channel 5 shows, which are then plugged relentlessly through the pages of his newspapers and the company's weekly gossip magazines OK!, New! and Star, which is strengthening N&S's hand in the media marketplace.

As unlikely as it sounds, the model for Desmond's business is that pioneered by the late Steve Jobs. "We need to be a bit more like Apple," Nick Bampton, Channel 5's head of sales told a meeting of advertisers. "Apple leaves the low margin of manufacturing to others. Manufacturing is crucial but what really adds value is design and innovation."

For the iPad, read Amy Childs. Already a tabloid star, manufactured by the ITV2 reality series The Only Way Is Essex, she quit to sign a "360 degree" deal with Desmond. Childs was "laundered" through Celebrity Big Brother, alongside fellow contestants Bercow and Katona.

Childs then became a columnist on New! magazine, where she broke the news to readers that she was about to star in her own Channel 5 series, It's All About Amy!. The Express and Star papers, which placed Celebrity Big Brother on the front every day during its run, found plentiful opportunities to show the "vajazzle queen" in revealing outfits and to remind readers of the programme's arrival.

Bercow, who donated most of her £100,000 CBB fee to charity, has also extended her relationship with Desmond. The Speaker's wife signed up as a columnist for the Daily Star Sunday. Its daily sister paper reported that Bercow "got on so well with [CBB winner] Paddy Doherty that she moved in with the 52-year-old gypsy for ten days for a Channel 5 series called When Paddy Met Sally, due to air next year."

Inevitably, reality TV veteran Kerry Katona, whose £350,000 Big Brother fee staved off bankruptcy, is next to get her own 5 show. Traditionally broadcasters would rake in cash by selling advertising across 30-second spots. But these "synergies" are part of Desmond's Apple-influenced plan to create cross-media deals with advertisers across his newspapers, magazines and Channel 5.

Northern & Shell's commercial partners are even invited to have "editorial involvement" in the company's products, to ensure that they are closely tailored to the advertisers' target audience.

Paul Ashford, Editorial Director at Northern & Shell, told i: "The newspapers, magazines and television, everything is co-ordinated. We are creating our own celebrities through Celebrity Big Brother. There is a lot of room for synergies."

When Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary, announced a review of cross-media ownership rules, it was seen as an attempt to restrict Rupert Murdoch's ambitions.

But it could easily be Desmond, with his mastery of cross-media promotion, whose interests become a subject for scrutiny.

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