ITV head Allen calls for regulation of BBC

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The Independent Online

Charles Allen, ITV's chief executive, wants the BBC to be brought under the regulation of Ofcom in the wake of the Hutton inquiry.

Mr Allen, who was speaking about the crisis at the BBC as his company made a confident debut on the stock market yesterday, said: "It's sad to see what has happened to the corporation in the last few weeks."

Sources close to Mr Allen say he would like to see the BBC brought under the same regulatory regime as its major commercial UK competitors, such as ITV and BSkyB.

Mr Allen said the BBC's current predicament could never arise at ITV, where Ofcom, the media regulator, would examine the kind of complaints that led to the Hutton inquiry. The BBC is regulated by its governors, which backed the corporation's journalism in the face of fierce criticism from the Government.

Mr Allen, speaking in a radio interview, said: "The difference with ITV is that we are never asked to be judge and jury. We're never asked to make those tough decisions at the top of the organisation because we have an external regulator."

Shares in the new ITV plc ­ formed by the merger of Carlton and Granada ­ traded for the first time yesterday. The stock opened at 141p and closed up 7p at 148p, valuing the company at £6bn. A flurry of broadly positive research notes were put out by City analysts, with Merrill Lynch suggesting the shares could reach 235p under its "blue sky scenario". The enlarged business, which contains 12 of the 16 ITV region licences, is also seen as a bid target.

In response to a question over whether Greg Dyke, the ousted BBC director-general, may be parachuted into the vacant position of chairman at ITV, Mr Allen said "that may be an opportunity for Greg".

He added: "However, the issue is that they [the ITV board] are looking for a senior business figure who has basically formed and developed a relationship in the City as an experienced chairman."

ITV has said it is down to a shortlist of six candidates for the chairman's post but headhunters said some of these people may instead be tempted by the two vacant positions at the top of the BBC. The chairmanship of SMG is also vacant, while the position at Channel 4 was only filled last week.

It emerged yesterday that one of the candidates favoured in speculation over the position, the banker John Nelson, had withdrawn from the race. It is understood that another leading contender, Vanni Treves, the outgoing chairman of Channel 4, has ruled himself out.

Other names frequently linked to the position include Lord MacLaurin, Vodafone's chairman, and Donald Brydon, the chairman of Amersham. The pair are now seen as the favourites for the position by Cantor Index, the spread betting firm. Also tipped for the position are Denise Kingsmill, formerly of the Competition Commission, and Sir Christopher Gent, the ex-chief executive of Vodafone.

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