Conor Dignam on Broadcasting

With Sky out of the way, all eyes now turn to Michael Grade's ITV

Sky's reaction to last week's government ruling that it must cut its 17.9 per cent stake in ITV back to less than 7.5 per cent was one of barely concealed corporate fury.

The Secretary of State for Business, John Hutton, made an enemy of the Murdoch empire for life when he backed the Competition Commission's ruling that Sky should get rid of the shares it acquired for almost £1bn in November 2006.

Sky is spitting feathers at the finding and has until the end of February to appeal, but the most likely outcome is that it will now be forced to sell most of its shares back to the market. The immediate impact of this will be a loss of something like £250m, based on what Sky paid for the shares 14 months ago – and how far ITV's share price has dropped. The shares were bought, of course, by James Murdoch as part of a strategy to wreck a bid by Virgin Media (then known as NTL) to buy ITV.

Many struggled to see the logic of the deal, but the thought of the cable company buying up the UK's biggest commercial free-to-air broadcaster clearly worried Murdoch (at that time Sky's chief executive and now its chairman) enough to provoke a dramatic response.

But in the fallout from all of this, who are the real winners and losers? Sky's aggrieved reaction is more about how the regulators and government are behaving towards it, than the outcome of the transaction itself.

And looked at objectively, one has to have some sympathy for Sky's position.

Murdoch and his team were acting well within the letter of the law when they swooped down and took 17.9 per cent of ITV. The Communications Act had relaxed cross media ownership laws which meant Sky could buy up to 20 per cent of either ITV or Five. Murdoch simply exercised that option and then found that the competition authorities had moved the goal posts. They decided that what really mattered was whether the size of Sky's stake had the potential to undermine ITV's corporate independence and at some point could act to block ITV's board from making a big and bold strategic or investment move. In the meantime, Sky offered to be a passive shareholder, giving up voting rights and any claim to a seat on the board. Unsurprisingly, the competition authorities viewed this offer as a little like putting a sleeping Rottweiler outside ITV's boardroom, promising it was perfectly safe and, perish the thought, would never wake up and bite anyone.

For all the huffing and puffing, Sky emerges from the affair a little bruised but still a winner. It saw off Virgin Media's bid for ITV and the cost in the end may be worth paying.

For Virgin, it looks like the moment has passed. A credit-crunched economy and a slump in media shares suggests there won't be a repeat bid for ITV anytime soon from the cable and mobile company. So Virgin still looks like the biggest loser, in the fallout of its frustrated bid for ITV. And then there's ITV itself. Executive chairman Michael Grade is a man known for his good luck. He certainly had a touch of it when Murdoch decided to invest in ITV shares. The move helped buy time for Grade to get his feet under the desk at Gray's Inn Road and to begin to make his mark. Without Murdoch's intervention it is entirely possible that his first few months in the job could have been taken up with fighting off an unwelcome bid – or his tenure at ITV might have ended almost before it had begun, if the deal had succeeded.

Instead, Grade has had time to work with director of television, Simon Shaps, and put a new strategy for ITV's schedule in place. He has been able to recruit the likes of Dawn Airey to head up ITV Productions and Rupert Howell to look after the commercial side of the business, both highly regarded and likely candidates to become chief executive. He has also been able to get on with doing this while being free of constant speculation about where the next bid for ITV might come from.

Either way, Grade owes Murdoch a debt because Sky's investment has bought him time and space in his role at ITV. Grade's response, of course, has been to lobby the Government to force Sky to dispose of its ITV stake holding.

But they say you should be careful what you wish for – and that could now apply to Grade. He wanted Sky out of the way and it looks likely he will get his wish. But the City, which for the last few months has been preoccupied with the issue of Sky's stake in ITV, will sharply turn its focus back to ITV's performance once the Sky issue is resolved. If ITV wanted to be free of Sky in order to make big and bold decisions – where are they? Restoring News at Ten might grab the headlines, but it doesn't qualify as the kind of move that will really change ITV's fortunes.

Grade has been in his job a year, but with Sky gone , the spotlight will fall on his performance – and where ITV goes from here.

Devolving power, not production, is the key The money's still in London

BBC director general Mark Thompson last week told the Nations and Regions Conference in Salford that by 2026 half of all BBC productions will be made outside the M25. That compares, he said, to broadly a fifth of all production in the mid-1990s.

Half of all BBC staff will also be employed outside London. No one can argue with sentiments and policies that make Britain's national broadcaster truly more national in terms of production, but that is only half the story. Regional production can mean lots of different things. If the crew and cast of a drama arrive in Liverpool or Manchester or Edinburgh and then once the shoot is finished decamp back to London, is that a regional production? Well, it is at the moment.

There's also the question of who will lead the creative exodus out of London. A few years ago there was talk of a big broadcasting figure becoming a "DG of the North", leading the move of BBC staff to Salford and being given a seat on the main BBC board to reflect the importance of the role.

That idea has gone quiet now, and while a creative leader is still being sought, it doesn't look like the role will have quite the same status.

The most serious flaw in the BBC's approach is that TV commissioning decisions and commissioning money still remain in London. The move of key BBC departments and 1,800 staff to Salford does not include any of the BBC's main TV channels: BBC1, BBC2, BBC3 and BBC4 are staying in London. Truly sustainable production centres are built around the key decision making and commissioning money – not just the production work itself, which is why more than 80 per cent of the independent production sector is based in London.

If Thompson really wants a regional revolution he should devolve power, not just production, and move some of these channels out of London. BBC3 and BBC4 in Salford? Now that would be a really significant statement of the BBC's intent. Unless that happens, the real focus of power will remain with the TV commissioning money – back in London.

An absurd plot, but I love it ... Oops!

Am I mad, in a coma, or have I gone back in time? I'm only asking because tonight (BBC1 9pm) Ashes to Ashes arrives bringing the return of Detective Chief Inspector Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister) last seen with his sidekick Sam Tyler (John Simm) in the brilliant Life on Mars. Hunt is now strutting his stuff in London in the Eighties rather than Manchester in the Seventies and Tyler has been replaced by Keeley Hawes as police psychologist Alex Drake. But hang on a minute, weren't Hunt and his police pals all figments of Sam Tyler's imagination? And didn't Tyler, erm, die in the last episode of Life on Mars? So how can Gene Hunt be back and relocated to another city and decade? Oh, it seems that Alex Drake was the psychologist treating Sam Tyler when he came out of his coma – so she knows all the characters – and, you've guessed it, she goes into a coma and meets them all in her own adventures.

It sounds absurd, but I have a feeling it will still be brilliant. I'll be watching it – just to see if Gene Hunt still has "oops" for his tea.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
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
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
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
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

Data Scientist

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A data analytics are currently looking t...

Insight Analyst Vacancy - Leading Marketing Agency

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading marketing agency have won a fe...

Account Manager, London

£18000 - £22000 per annum, Benefits: Excellent Uncapped Commission Structure: ...

Sales Executive, London

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Charter Selection: This exciting entertainment comp...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star