Talk of the trade: He's here, he's there, he's everywhere

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The Independent Online
NEED someone for an after- dinner speech, a quick leader page article, television interview, radio phone-in, or even to open your flower show? Michael Grade is your man. Never one to do things by halves, the chief executive of Channel 4 has been monopolising the papers and airwaves for the past week in pursuit of his campaign to free his channel from the financial chains that shackle it to the ITV network.

He is seeking sympathy for the apparent absurdity that, because of a quirk in its funding formula, upmarket Channel 4 is subsidising the downmarket ITV companies to the tune of some pounds 50m a year - money that could otherwise be spent on uplifting programmes such as last weekend's Glyndebourne opera. Ironically, the formula was devised as a safety net for Grade: if his channel had sold less advertising, the ITV companies would have been obliged to fork out.

Will his campaign succeed? The ITV companies want things to stay as they are until 1997, when the formula, introduced in the 1990 Broadcasting Act, is to be reviewed. But even if Grade's media blitz does persuade the Government, it may be years before he is rid of his burden. The National Heritage Department, responsible for the Act, moves notoriously slowly.

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