Exotic figure aiming for younger viewers

(First Edition)

WITH his elegant black suit, neat white shirt and black hair scraped back in a small pony tail, the Canadian-born and Harvard-educated Moses Znaimer cut an exotic but composed figure as he faced sceptical British reporters yesterday, writes Maggie Brown.

Mr Znaimer, 49, is the surprising choice of entrepreneur who Thames Television says will provide the zippy programming and flair to make Channel Five work. 'I'm thrilled to be here, surprised as you are at this odd couple,' he said about his link with Thames.

In 1972 Mr Znaimer set up Citytv in Toronto, and has carved a niche for it among the 50 or so stations available. It appeals to people in their twenties and thirties, precisely the groups who turn away from ITV.

This is achieved by having rolling live news and current affairs formats, rather like radio, wrapped around films, music and other programmes. 'I am a TV producer, not a sales guy. Conventional television skews towards older people, ours skews the other way,' he said.

'British viewers have not seen a station which energetically promotes itself on air, with its hi-tech production areas visible to viewers and passers by, and even its offices wired for sound and vision,' the application says.

It promises a 9pm movie every night, a 7pm movie six nights a week, and commits itself to showing every British-made film it can lay its hands on. At weekends it will concentrate on live dance, pop and rock'n'roll.

'Channel Five is a problem to be managed. It's also an opportunity to be seized. An instrument to be played,' Mr Znaimer said. The question now is whether what the application optimistically calls a fusion of Citytv programme concepts, and Thames research into the practicalities of retuning, can convince both a sceptical investment community, and the Independent Television Commission.