Ex-Channel 4 chief Jackson 'still interested in top ITV job'

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The Independent Online

Michael Jackson, the television executive who many believe would be the best candidate for the chief executive job at ITV, is interested in the soon-to-be-vacant position, despite previous indications that he had ruled himself out.

Mr Jackson, a former chief executive of Channel 4, has been working in the US for the past five years. But according to industry sources, he "could be persuaded" to return to the UK for the ITV challenge.

Many City analysts and media executives, including some within ITV, feel that Mr Jackson's creative credentials, his experience of running large media organis-ations and his work in new media, make him an ideal person to rescue ITV from falling audiences and a poorly developed internet strategy.

It had previously been believed that the vast earnings available to him in the US, and family reasons, meant that he would not consider the ITV job. Late last month this appeared to be confirmed when he was quoted saying that he was "not interested" in replacing Charles Allen as the head of ITV.

His apparent lack of interest in the job came as a blow to the company, particularly as two other leading television executives - Tony Ball, former chief executive of BSkyB, and Andy Duncan, the current chief executive of Channel 4 - had already ruled themselves out.

However, according to those who know him, the 48-year-old Mr Jackson ought not to be considered out of the running. One source said: "Michael has a wife and children settled in the US.

"He doesn't want to move back to England. But he could be persuaded to come back for the ITV job."

Mr Jackson lives in Manhattan with his partner, Rachel Horowitz, and twin 10-month-old boys. He is president of programming at Barry Diller's internet empire, Interactive Corporation, where he in charge of creating broadband channels that are funded by advertising.

A media insider said: "There are lots of senior people at ITV that want to see him do it. He inspires creative people."

The other leading contenders for the job include Mike Clasper, the former chief executive of airports group BAA who is a non-executive director at ITV; Roger Parry, chairman of Johnston Press; Dawn Airey, head of programming at Sky; Simon Shaps, director of television at ITV; and Stephen Carter, the former chief executive of regulator Ofcom.

Mr Jackson's period in charge of Channel 4, which he left in 2001 after four years in the post, is considered to have been a resounding success. Under his leadership the broadcaster developed programmes such as Big Brother, So Graham Norton and Da Ali G Show. Channel 4 also poached test cricket from the BBC, put on dramas such as Queer As Folk and Longitude and poached the king and queen of daytime TV, Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan, from ITV. Mr Jackson also launched the digital channels Film Four and E4. Mr Jackson created The Media Show for Channel 4 when still in his twenties. He went on to work on The Late Show arts programme on BBC 2. He was made controller of BBC 2 when he was just 35 years old. Three years later he became controller of BBC 1 before going on to run Channel 4.

Mr Jackson could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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