Donation 'should bar Carlton chief'

THE INDEPENDENT Television Commission faced calls yesterday for Michael Green, chairman of Carlton Communications, which won the London weekday ITV franchise, to be ruled out as the next chairman of Independent Television News (ITN).

The call came after the disclosure in yesterday's Independent on Sunday that his private company, which owns most of his shareholding in Carlton, donated pounds 15,000 to the Conservative Party in the year to last April.

Although the date of the payment is not known, that financial year covered much of the period between February and October 1991 when the ITV franchises were being decided, and the run-up to the general election.

Peter Mandelson, Labour MP for Hartlepool, and a former adviser to the BBC, yesterday called on Sir George Russell, the chairman of the Independent Television Commission, to declare immediately that Mr Green would not be acceptable as the new ITN chief.

The 45-year old head of Carlton, which also owns 20 per cent of Central, the Midlands ITV company that itself owns a similar stake in Meridian in the south of England, has been trailed as the likely new chairman of a consortium seeking to take over ITN.

Mr Mandelson said that the donation 'should disqualify him from taking on the ITN post because ITN's political independence and impartiality is vital to the future of British democracy'.

Carlton itself, like other major ITV companies, makes no donations, a spokesman said yesterday. 'We are an ITV company and have to be independent of all political parties.'

This week, Gordon Brown, Labour's shadow Chancellor, will highlight the links of Conservative MPs and former ministers with the banks and privatised utilities.

Bank dividends and executive pay have risen by 50 per cent over a period when customers have paid 60 per cent more in charges, Mr Brown said. 'While customers have been struggling, the banks have awarded themselves significant increases in both dividends and executive hand-outs,' he said yesterday.

That came at a time when 20 MPs were advisers or directors to banks, he said. The party's 'cosy relationship with the banking establishment resulted only in cosy chats with the Chancellor, but no action' over charges.

Entrenched Conservative interests were harming individuals, Mr Brown added, as Labour will again spell out the extent to which former ministers have gone on to benefit from board membership or advisory roles in utilities or companies that they regulated or helped to privatise.

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