Partners try to fix C5 price

Senior executives of Granada and BSkyB, partners in a bid for the new Channel 5 terrestrial television service, were last night convened for intensive negotiations to determine how much to offer to win the licence. An executive said all issues except price had been settled.

Granada chief executive Gerry Robinson was believed to be concerned about the amount BSkyB was prepared to bid to clinch the highly competitive auction. His office would not confirm whether Granada was prepared to pull out of the consortium if a compromise could not be reached.

Rupert Murdoch, BSkyB's controlling shareholder, is believed to be holding out for a knockout bid to ensure the satellite and cable broadcaster wins its first UK terrestrial licence. Terms of the auction mean the highest qualified bid automatically gets the licence.

The prospect of a win by the Murdoch-led consortium has set off a protest among broadcasting competitors and in Parliament. The Government has so far refused to change the terms of the auction or to delay it pending reform of media cross-ownership rules.

The bids for Channel 5 are due by noon today. BSkyB, along with Granada, PolyGram, Goldman Sachs and European broadcaster Kinnevik, is a leading candidate to win the licence.

Virgin TV, a joint venture of Virgin Group, electronics giant Philips, Paramount Television, ITV licence holder HTV and Associated Newspapers, has finalised its bid and will deliver it by noon today to the Independent Television Commission.

A third consortium groups media and information company Pearson, finance and media conglomerate MAI and European broadcaster CLT with an unnamed fourth bidder, reliably thought to be a financial institution.

Other media companies were last night rumoured to be preparing rival bids.

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