UK commercial public service broadcaster Channel 4 is understood to have held behind-the-scenes talks with the BBC, Five and UK telco BT as it seeks to find a solution to its anticipated funding shortfall. The future direction of the broadcaster will be shaped by UK communications regulator Ofcom’s latest Public Service Broadcasting Review, which will be published this Wednesday.
Ahead of Ofcom’s report, Channel 4 has been talking to various parties. Chairman Luke Johnson is understood to have talked to Five, but CEO Andy Duncan subsequently told local press that combining the two at this point would be like “mixing oil and water.” He added, however, that consolidation might make sense further down the track.
Meanwhile, Gerhard Zeiler, CEO of Five’s parent company RTL, has argued the case for a combined Four and Five. In an opinion piece in the UK Financial Times, he said combining the two would preserve their respective PSB remits and made sense in the current economic environment.
The BBC is reluctant to sanction any merger with Channel Four and its own commercial arm BBC Worldwide, despite apparent enthusiasm from British Ministers and regulators.
Channel 4 chairman Luke Johnson is also understood to have met BT’s chief executive on more than one occasion to discuss possible tie ups between the telco, which operates the BT Vision IPTV service, and broadcaster.