Letter: Channel 5 needs no Murdoch 'rescue'

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your theory that Murdoch will soon be taking over Channel 5 (Rob Brown, 7 April) faces some credibility hurdles. Certainly, the prospect of co-operation between Sky and Channel 5, particularly over sport and movies, was noted at the time Sky participated in a bid for Channel 5. However, Sky's valuation of such a prospect was presumably reflected in the level of that bid: well below that of every other applicant.

As for the listed sports events, your theory misses the fact that Channel 5 is as forbidden as Sky from showing these treasures exclusively.

True, The Sun and The Sunday Times participated in joint marketing ventures with Channel 5; but so did many other national newspapers. Editorially, they have been no more supportive of Channel 5 than any other papers.

The joint bid by Sky and Channel 5 for our channel's text service has no external significance. If I ignored this point when I wrote to you, it was because my colleague Ian Ritchie had already debunked the fantasy published in your Sunday edition, which mistakenly headlined this modest joint venture as Murdoch taking a stake in Channel 5 itself. Unfortunately, his letter was not published.

At present, both Murdoch and Sky are forbidden by law from owning more than 20 per cent of Channel 5. Even if - improbably - the incoming government changed that law, Murdoch would have to find willing sellers amongst Channel 5's shareholders. Sadly for your theory, far from "this pathetic fledgling network" needing "rescue", the present shareholders can already see that their investment is in excellent shape, and this week expressed their confidence by authorising the biggest single acquisition deal in British terrestrial television history, over and above the approved programme budget for Channel 5.

Much as I miss my former colleagues at Isleworth, and the cuddly embrace of everyone's favourite New Zealander, I will be treating Sky as simply another UK broadcaster: potentially a collaborator or competitor, depending on the circumstances.

DAVID ELSTEIN

Channel 5 Broadcasting

London WC2

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