Letter: Diversity and bias at Channel 5

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The Independent Online
Sir: The regulatory powers of the Independent Television Commission in relation to Channel 5 are understated by Michael Grade's article "Save Channel 5 from Murdoch!" and your leader "Who's afraid of Rupert Murdoch?" (both articles, 26 April). In fact, the ITC has two significant areas of discretion where it can award the licence other than on the basis of the highest cash bid. Both the "quality threshold" and "exceptional circumstances" provision within the Channel 5 application to apply are underpinned by the statutory obligation to provide "diversity" within the service.

For instance, it could be argued that any plans - whether those of Sky, Pearson or Virgin - which offer local city or regional elements within the framework of a national channel would better meet the diversity requirement than a simple unified national channel. Applicants have been asked to put forward such proposals under question 4: Local Services in the invitation to apply.

As far as legislation is concerned, it is too late for Channel 5. Rather than try to close that stable door, forthcoming digital television legislation should be framed to encourage new entrance to offer new forms of service.

Yours sincerely,

PHILIP REEVELL

Head of Corporate Affairs

Mersey Television Company

Liverpool

26 May

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