Media: Hollick's wide-screen vision: He may be a mogul himself, but Lord Hollick wants proper controls on cross-media ownership. Maggie Brown reports

It was a sticky summer afternoon, but Lord (Clive) Hollick was in his air-conditioned office, back turned on a stunning picture- window view of the Thames and talking passionately about the need for a thorough review of cross-media ownership.

He is scathing of the latest Government media botch-up, the relaxation of takeover rules last November, which allowed an operator to control two ITV franchises, regardless of their size. This left the smallest companies wilting on the Celtic fringes as Carlton/Central, Granada/LWT and Meridian/Anglia joined forces, and most newspaper companies, still excluded from the owners' club, spitting with frustration from the sidelines.

The problem for the interviewer is to work out how much of what Lord Hollick says on this democratically vital subject is based on self-interested lobbying directed at the Department of National Heritage committee about to report to ministers on the issues, and how much springs from his distinctive political views. A red-blooded capitalist by deed, he is also a firm supporter of a Blairite Labour Party, and of properly regulated market- places that ensure diversity and do not simply back a few big players by encouraging mergers.

Happiest behind the scenes, his money-broking, fleet-footed company, MAI, has benefited hugely from both the flawed 1990 Broadcasting Act and ensuing franchise tender, adding a significant media division to its operations by winning the old TVS franchise for Meridian. Earlier this year, by taking advantage of the new takeover rules of which he is so critical, MAI paid pounds 292m for Anglia.

Lord Hollick says he wants to expand his media business further. As one of the members of a Channel 5 consortium, he would like to be released from the current 20 per cent limit on a shareholding in this new terrestrial TV venture, and also expand into running cable channels.

The only real setback to his media ambitions in the past two years has been a bitter public falling out over the direction of Mirror Group Newspapers (which owns a stake in Newspaper Publishing, publisher of the Independent and Independent on Sunday). He resigned last year after clashes with David Montgomery, the chief executive he helped to install. The experience, which he declines to share with a wider public, still cuts deep.

He has now become unusually available for interview following a speech last month at the Voice of the Listener and Viewer's Conference. His public plea for commerce with a public service conscience had less impact than he anticipated because on that day the media was elsewhere, convulsed with the implications of the broadsheet newspaper price war between Rupert Murdoch and Conrad Black, itself a grim example of the lengths to which media moguls are prepared to go to drive up sales and do down rivals.

Lord Hollick points out that as a commercial organisation MAI was bound to take advantage of the freedom to buy up Anglia, another large franchise, even though the change in the rules was 'cack- handed'. And as for being politically motivated: 'I'm saying what I'm saying because I think it has merit.' His main themes are that Britain needs to redefine monopoly to cover all forms of media (see right) and that there should be a powerful single body to regulate all broadcasting, both the business and taste and content aspects. It would also settle the formula for the BBC licence fee.

With the White Paper on the future of the BBC licence fee due today, he holds firm to the radical view - unlikely to be adopted by the Government but viewed more sympathetically by Labour - that a single regulatory body should embrace the corporation.

'I fail to see why broadcasting needs more than one regulator, more than one centre of expertise. It would remove from the BBC the concern and fear it has about going cap in hand to Government.' He described the current system of the Government appointing BBC governors to be its regulators a 'nave notion, a historic arrangement' that can no longer be sustained.

'The Independent Television Commission is already responsible for two terrestrial channels, and cable and satellite. Add the BBC to that and I don't think you would create a monster. I personally don't see the danger of a regulator being over-powerful.

'Governments should establish a general approach then leave the regulator to take a dispassionate independent view without any hint of a political agenda.'

An added advantage of a dispassionate regulator is that it would depersonalise the issue and remove the emotional dimension, which so often in the UK means a fear of Rupert Murdoch.

The idea of a single regulator has been raised in the past by Sir George Russell, chairman of the ITC. But G E Ward Thomas, chairman of Yorkshire/Tyne Tees, was swift to dismiss the notion last week, distancing ITV from the Hollick camp. 'It reminds me of totalitarian regimes; too much power in one set of hands,' he said. 'One knows the sort of people who get appointed by governments to these bodies. Its a horrifying situation. But Clive reckons there will be a Labour government and he'll be head boy.'

But there is more sympathy for Lord Hollick's point that with 10 regulatory agencies and government bodies policing broadcasting, and fighting for turf, some centralisation is essential.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
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

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chessington

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Service Desk Analyst - Chessington, Surrey...

Guru Careers: Finance Account Manager

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Finance Account Manager with...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Sphere Digital Recruitment: Display Account Manager

£25,000 to £35,000: Sphere Digital Recruitment: The Company Our client are th...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas