More hurdles ahead for Channel 5 bids

With the Government still dithering on new rules for cross-ownership in the media, the market is moving ahead with its own solutions. Several bidders for Channel 5 are designing clever ways around the regulations, perhaps even with the subtle if unofficial blessing of the Independent Television Commission. All of them can justifiably claim to be following a path already well trodden by Rupert Murdoch and, to a lesser extent, Carlton and Granada. Mr Murdoch defies all restrictions with his controlling interest in both broadcast TV and newspapers. Carlton and Granada, by taking over Central Television and LWT, ended up with 36 per cent each of ITN, the independent producer of news services for ITV and Channel 4. The ITC meekly allowed the deal to stand until the end of 1995, to see if the Government might want to change the rules.

The current ownership restrictions make for mind-numbing reading. They cover every eventuality, from newspapers owning television licences to ITV companies investing in cable. The rule most under pressure today covers newspaper publishers, who cannot own more than 5 per cent of a second ITV licence holder including the proposed Channel 5.

Of the three contenders left for the new terrestrial service, all face hurdles under the ITC rules. Associated Newspapers and Pearson are worst off; both already have a stake in an ITV licence holder. Result? A 5 per cent ceiling for Channel 5.

The fact that every bidder so constrained is devising ways to avoid the rules is testimony to how likely the restrictions are to go. Stephen Dorrell, the Heritage Secretary, is virtually certain to wipe them away next month, when he unveils the results of his review of ownership limits. He may even go further, and raise the general limits on all cross-ownership to 29.9 per cent from the current 20 per cent.

The rules also help to explain why quite so many partners have lined up together to launch their bids, and why some have backed out altogether. Channel 5 is likely to be the last new terrestrial channel in Britain, in a sector that is in slow decline.

There is money to be made, to be sure, despite the declining share of audience and advertising revenues accounted for by the terrestrial television market. But there are also risks, which must be shared around. It is hard to entice enough partners to make your investment work if some of your key partners are limited to such risibly small shareholdings.

Yet some kind of regulation is clearly needed. The dangers of concentration in the media are obvious, not least in the areas of news and public affairs. A solution that might serve would see ownership restrictions replaced by market dominance limits. For instance, the newspaper, television and other media holdings of a single company might be looked at together, as a percentage of the total advertising market or of total viewership and circulation.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Customer Relations Officer

£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Jemma Gent: Project Coordinator

£12 - £15 Hourly Rate: Jemma Gent: In this role you will report to the Head of...

Recruitment Genius: Evening Administrator

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established early...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable