Virgin leads bid for Channel Five

Virgin Communications, Richard Branson's media company, confirmed yesterday it was leading a consortium to bid for the new Channel Five licence. Its partners are Associated Newspapers, publisher of the Daily Mail, the Mail on Sunday and the Evening Standard, the electronics giant Philips and HTV, the ITV licence holder for Wales and the West. Electra, the quoted investment trust is also supporting the bid.

Despite media cross-ownership restrictions that ostensibly limit Associated Newspapers to a 5 per cent stake in Channel Five, it is understood that the publisher will propose taking 20 per cent, perhaps with reduced voting control, if the bid is accepted.

It is widely assumed that the Government will liberalise the ownership restrictions, particularly those limiting newspaper publishers with a stake in an ITV company to a maximum of 5 per cent in a second licence- holder.

Declining to provide details on its planned programming, a Virgin spokesman said the approach would be "innovative". Most analysts expect the new channel to resemble ITV, the commercial Channel Three service, with an emphasis on light entertainment, drama and soap operas.

"Our target audience is definitely ITV's audience but we aim to be distinct," Sir David English, chairman of Associated Newspapers, said.

The Virgin consortium joins three rival bidders for the licence, to be awarded by the Independent Television Commission later this year. BSkyB, the satellite and cable company owned 40 per cent by Rupert Murdoch, is teaming up with Granada, the ITV licence holder and TV production company, and TCI, the US cable giant.

Pearson, the media and information company that publishes the Financial Times, is working with the financial services and media company MAI and the European broadcaster CLT. Pearson television last week bought the Australian production company Grundy Worldwide, in part to develop programmes for Channel Five.

A fourth consortium, headed by Mirror Group, includes the US network NBC and the TV producer SelecTV. Mirror Group is less than three months away from launching a new cable channel, LiveTV, which will feature middle- brow, popular programming similar to what is expected on Channel Five.

Mirror Group and Pearson are technically limited to a 5 per cent stake in Channel Five, but both are expected to propose taking higher shares in anticipation of a relaxation of the rules. News International, which publishes five national titles and is the largest shareholder in BSkyB, does not have a stake in an ITV company. As a result, BSkyB could take up to 20 per cent of Channel Five under current rules.

A Virgin spokesman said yesterday that the company and its partners would make a strong commitment to new UK programming, using the independent television sector.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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: Tax Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Tax Assistant is required to join a leading ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - OTE £25,000

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Developer - Watford - £45,000 - £47,000

£45000 - £47000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / ...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Product Manager - (Financial Services) - SW London

£35000 - £38000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us