Ian Burrell: Prepare for an 'OK!' diet of celebrity gossip and reality TV

It seems inevitable that Desmond will use Channel Five as a lever to sign celebrity deals

Share
Related Topics

Richard Desmond's purchase of channel Five could mean a swift return to British television for Big Brother, the reality-television show which is being dropped from the schedules of Channel 4.

Mr Desmond began his negotiations to buy Five three months ago in a joint initiative with Endemol, the Dutch-based production company that owns the rights to Big Brother, which it first made in 1999. Although the media baron decided, three weeks into the talks, to do the deal with Five's owners, RTL, without Endemol, he remains keen on bringing the reality show back to Britain. He is said to be interested in making versions of other formerly successful television shows, such as Top of the Pops.

Ownership of a terrestrial television channel will offer the owner of the Northern & Shell publishing empire and Express Newspapers considerable scope for raising the profile of his various brands across media platforms. Mr Desmond's Daily Star tabloid already devotes extensive coverage to Big Brother and would expect to benefit from a closer relationship with the programme.

Given the success of OK! magazine, which sells 6 million copies a week in 23 international editions, it seems inevitable that Mr Desmond will use Five as a lever to sign celebrity deals that include related programming. The magazine has existing contracts with the popular cover stars Katie Price and Kerry Katona, who could be given their own TV formats. Editorial opportunities would also exist for Mr Desmond's other celebrity titles, New! and Star, although references that openly encouraged purchase of Mr Desmond's products would be in breach of both cross-media ownership regulations and the new rules on product placement which are to be introduced at the end of this year.

Mr Desmond has promised to invest in the content of the channels, but within Fleet Street he is regarded as an asset-stripper. Although he has made handsome profits from his newspapers, they operate with a fraction of the resources of their rivals, and the right-wing Express titles have been censured for their reporting, most notably over coverage of Madeleine McCann, for which the Daily Express had to publish a grovelling apology for more than 100 "seriously defamatory" stories.

The media mogul has seen how Rupert Murdoch has developed synergies between BSkyB, in which Mr Murdoch's News Corp is the largest shareholder, and News International, his stable of national newspapers. It would not be in breach of broadcasting regulations for Five, or its digital sister channels, to feature columnists from Mr Desmond's newspapers. The married television presenters Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan write for the Daily Express, as does the former Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe, who has television-presenting experience.

When Mr Desmond bought the Express titles a decade ago, there were howls of protest over his ownership of porn magazines. Today, thanks to his broadcasting arm, Portland TV, which makes the adult channels Television X and Red Hot TV, Mr Desmond already has a licence from the media watchdog Ofcom.

Staff at Five yesterday voiced concern at a possible lurch downmarket. Yet famously, the current chief executive, Dawn Airey, once memorably associated the broadcaster with the "three Fs", saying it was about more than "football, films and fucking".

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Should parents be allowed to take pictures at nativity plays?  

Ghosts of Christmas past: What effect could posting pictures of nativity plays have on the next generation?

Ellen E Jones
The first Christmas card: in 1843 the inventor Sir Henry Cole commissioned the artist John Callcott Horsley to draw a card for him to send to family and friends  

Hold your temperance: New life for the first Christmas card

Simmy Richman
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick