NBC 'is not up for sale'

NEW YORK - NBC, the struggling US television network that has been the object of rumours for almost two years, is not up for sale, its owner, General Electric Company of the US, said yesterday, writes Larry Black.

In sharp contrast to the 'no comments' issued in the past when asked about merger speculation, NBC made available comments by Jack Welch, GE chairman, reassuring employees that the conglomerate had no plans to break up or sell the network.

NBC, which has slipped to third place in ratings for both entertainment and news, has been named as a likely merger partner for several Hollywood studios, including Paramount and Disney. More recently, there had been reports that GE planned to split the network, selling its entertainment division to Barry Diller, the former chairman of the Fox studio, or to the comedian Bill Cosby.

NBC is the odd man out within the big manufacturing conglomerate. It is GE's only media business and fails to meet Mr Welch's strategy of owning only market leaders. Its news division has also suffered a series of embarrassments, most notably when it was forced to admit it had used fake evidence in a report on General Motors' controversial pick-up trucks.

'NBC is not for sale,' Mr Welch told the employees. 'We've had lapses in judgement before in all kinds of businesses at GE. It's behind us.'

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