Sports Letters: Free information

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The Independent Online
Sir: The censure of Terry Venables over his inadvertent profit forecast ('Ashby's exit cuts Venables' power base' 18 May) in Cup Final Grandstand on Saturday 15 May displays in sharp relief the insider bias of the City. The Stock Exchange requires information to be transmitted to all shareholders at the same time - this ensures a fair market in companies' shares (cf. the recent wrist-slapping of the London International Group, 15 May). However, the medium it has chosen to sanction for this is only economically justifiable for large-scale investors - the Topic service. This service costs some pounds 1,500 to set up in hardware costs, and pounds 1,500 a year in line and service costs. This is beyond the means of most individual investors. However, Cup Final Grandstand will probably be the most watched sporting programme of the year (traditionally the audience is c. 13 million) and a television licence costs about pounds 80 a year. So the Stock Exchange considers a system which is restricted to some 5,000 users in 300 or so City-based institutions a more perfect method of information transmission than national television and one of the most watched programmes of the year.

Of course, this may have nothing to do with the probability that most of the small (non-Sugar and Venables) shareholders in Tottenham Hotspur plc were likely to be watching such a programme whereas the City market makers who may have wanted to act on information (buy or sell) would have been out spending their six-figure salaries. Perhaps the Stock Exchange should help promote a shareholding democracy by requiring companies to make their announcements on national (terrestrial) television so that the information is available to all of the market rather than the sophisticated cash-rich investors.

Yours faithfully,

ROBIN PAKENHAM

London SE12

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