Mathew Horsman predicts an assault on Channel 5

I can guarantee you that the media sections of newspapers, as well as the pages of trade rags, will be filled all summer with negative stories about Channel 5. I don't make this prediction because the Independent has a grudge against the new terrestrial TV service. Far from it, for how can one be against extended choice, new outlets for British TV talent, and another option for advertisers keen to push down the rates they current pay to greedy ITV and Channel 4?

No, Channel 5 will come in for column inch after column inch of negative publicity as a direct result of the in-bred structure of the UK media industry and the way journalism works.

Let's consider why. After much deep and detailed consideration by the worthies at the Independent Television Commission, the Channel 5 licence was awarded in October last year to a joint venture of Pearson, MAI (now United News & Media) and CLT, doubtless a stellar, if tiresomely predictable group. But the winners are perhaps less interesting than the losers. Among the companies that failed to get a piece of C5, in no particular order, were: Granada, BSkyB, Virgin, Associated Newspapers, HTV and SelectTV (whose cable channel is now part of Carlton).

Of these, two are ITV companies (Granada and HTV), two are cable channel operators (Associated and SelecTV), and one is the pay-TV sector's undisputed giant (BSkyB). Now, what do you think they are all saying about Channel 5's prospects? It is not hard to imagine that every one of these companies has a vested interest in seeing Channel 5 fail.

Those ITV franchise-holders that failed to win a share of the new licence are now prime targets in their own areas of C5's marketing and scheduling. C5 will look like ITV 2 (although cheaper) and will look to take viewers away from the traditional channel 3 services. Those companies with a big and growing commitment to pay-TV, such as Associated's Channel One, Carlton's SelecTV, or Granada, which is launching satellite services in league with BSkyB in October, are equally at risk from the launch of C5.

All these companies, to a greater or lesser degree, originally bid for the licence in order to offset the effects of new competition in the marketplace. When they were in the running, Channel 5 was a clear winner, a wonderful use of shareholders' funds. Now that they have lost, their attention is focused on ensuring that the winners get as rough a ride as possible.

And in this, they are aided and abetted by the press, which loves to be briefed on contentious issues, cannot resist the whispered innuendo, won't say no to a "confidential" report proving how unappetising the Channel 5 programming line-up is.

Even worse for C5's owners, the losers all spent thousands of pounds researching the most difficult element of a new Channel 5 service: the need to retune millions of VCRs up and down the country to ensure that the signal can be received by a maximum number of homes. In the files of senior executives at Granada, BSkyB, Associated, and the rest are full- scale reports on the retuning exercise, along with confidential information about the logistics, the technical issues and - crucially - the costs.

Rather than go about the somewhat prosaic task of retuning in a climate of serene isolation, C5 is obliged to promote the procedure widely, alerting British householders to the retuner's impending visit. There can be few secrets about the campaign if it is to work.

But even those bits C5 would like to keep secret are already represented in the files of the losers. Every bidding group did a detailed, line-by- line critique of the competitors' applications, concentrating on the retuning task. And you can be sure that selected "facts" about the procedure have already been sent down fax lines to selected journalists, followed up by a helpful telephone briefing.

"You know, they are already way behind schedule," one comment might run. Or, "according to our retuning plans, there is no way they can do it for the budget they have set." How about, "Have you asked them about the aerial problem?"

It's all done in the spirit of helpfulness, or course. Just a contact at one of the losing companies helping out his mate in the trade and mainstream press.

This is the way much of journalism gets done: and good hacks use their judgement before swallowing the line whole. It is precisely how the Channel 5 story was covered in the run-up to the award, as the high bidder, the hapless CanWest, was dumped on by all and sundry, while the second, third, and fourth placed consortia busily trashed each other too. Fair enough, and very useful it was too for those of us listening in on the antics.

The trouble for C5, however, is the sheer number of companies arrayed against it, and the extent of the detailed, technical information each possesses on what is likely to be the major issue in the months leading up to the launch.

As a public service, then, let's write a few of the headlines right now, thereby saving you all from reading them later this summer. "Channel 5 misses retuning target." Or "C5 budget under strain." Or "Channel 5 launch date in doubt." Or even worse, "C5 retuner pinches widow's telly."

Stories such as these will be useful to C5 competitors, provided advertisers are spooked, potential viewers are anxious and the channel's managers are running scared.

For the record, the retuning exercise is going to be a nightmare. The launch is going to be rocky. And the Independent will gleefully report every stage. Just so you know.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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 Media

(Junior) IT Systems Administrator / Infrastructure Analyst

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly ...

Sales Engineer - Cowes - £30K-£40K

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Sales Engineer - Cow...

Web / Digital Analyst - Google Analytics, Omniture

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Sales Perfomance Manager. Marylebone, London

£45-£57k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice