C4 chief a `victim of revenge'

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The Independent Online
The chairman of Channel 4, Sir Michael Bishop, is said by friends to be "sad but not bitter" that the new government is insisting he steps down from the post when his current contract expires at the end of the year. In what is being seen by his friends as an act of political revenge, Chris Smith, the minister for culture, media and sport, vetoed a proposal by the Independent Television Commission that he should stay in the post for a further 12 months.

Sir Michael has not concealed his Conservative sympathies, leasing a British Midland plane to John Major during the election in his capacity as chairman of that airline. But colleagues say he has always run C4 in a totally apolitical fashion, using his close contacts with the last government to stop the station being privatised. He had only sought a further year when his current five-year contract runs out on 31 December because he was anxious to help Michael Jackson, Channel 4's new chief executive, to settle in. "Michael (Bishop) is not bitter, seeking this as a predictable if sad act by a government showing a certain degree of inexperience in handling top people in business and commerce," said a friend last night. "He really did feel an obligation to oversee Michael (Jackson) in his first 18 months or so and give him the benefit of his commercial experience."

Having spent most of his career in the BBC, Mr Jackson will certainly have to adjust to the challenges of running a commercial enterprise, albeit one with a strong public-service dimension.

The transition will not be eased by the fact that Channel 4's deputy chairman, David Plowright, and a number of other directors are due to bow out along with Sir Michael at the end of the year.

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