Outlook: BSkyB/Man Utd

THE INDEPENDENT Television Commission and its chief executive, Peter Rogers, have never been held in particularly high regard by the broadcasting companies they are supposed to regulate. In recent years, however, Britain's television companies have become increasingly frustrated with the industry watchdog. Its bureaucratic approach and insistence on regulating everything that appears on television are seen as being increasingly at odds with the new digital world of wide consumer choice.

Nevertheless, even Mr Rogers' most vehement critics would not have thought the ITC capable of such a spectacular own goal by letting it be known that it had opposed British Sky Broadcasting's takeover of Manchester United in its submissions to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.

Of course, as the official regulator the ITC is entitled to its opinion on the subject. Unfortunately, it is not clear that Mr Rogers' view is entirely shared by his officials. In a hurried statement issued yesterday, the ITC argued that although it believed the takeover needed "careful investigation" a decision on the outcome of the enquiry was "a matter for the MMC alone."

It seems that, while the ITC put forward a particular case in its submissions to the MMC, Mr Rogers embellished on those views when the panel asked him to explain them.

Mr Rogers has already crossed BSkyB once when the ITC forced the satellite broadcaster to withdraw from the winning consortium for the licence to operate digital terrestrial television. The odds on him surviving in his job beyond next week - when the ITC's main board meets - must be slim.

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