Channel 5 fends off Virgin bid

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The Independent Online
Britain's fifth television channel remains on track to start next January after the High Court dismissed claims that the operating licence should not have been awarded to Channel 5 Broadcasting.

Virgin Television argued in a judicial review that the Independent Television Commission was guilty of procedural impropriety in its consideration of C5B's bid. Claims centred on whether the ITC had unfairly allowed C5B to increase its programme funding by pounds 100m to pounds 306m four months after the May deadline for bids.

Virgin also argued that the ITC irrationally failed Virgin's application on programme quality grounds - including its level of news staff, high level of repeats and lack of innovation. Many of its arguments were supported by UKTV, which bid pounds 36.26m but also failed on quality, and New Century TV, the consortium led by Rupert Murdoch, which only bid pounds 2m. Virgin and C5B both bid pounds 22.002m.

Lord Justice Henry and Mr Justice Turner said: "We are satisfied that there was neither illegality nor unfairness in the commission recognising C5B's shareholders' commitment."

Virgin, NCTV and UKTV were denied leave to appeal.

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