Channel 5 targets council flats in 3m retuning drive

Channel 5 is spending 3m helping local councils retune aerials so that people living in council blocks can watch the channel.

C5 has signed deals with 60 councils so far. A spokesman says once the work is completed an additional 500,000 homes will be able to tune in.

He adds: “At the moment people living in council blocks served by a communal aerial can’t receive C5.”

However, the move appears ironic in the light of remarks made by the station’s chief executive David Elstein at the Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival last weekend. He said C5’s audience is “disappointingly downmarket”.

The channel offers either to direct financial assistance to the councils or to negotiate preferential deals with suppliers. It is also mailing 10,000 people to tell them their aerials have been retuned.

About 50 aerial installers and three equipment suppliers are working on the project.

Meanwhile, Elstein says C5 is to launch a line of merchandising as an additional revenue stream, instead of selling programme rights.

“We are looking beyond what happens on screen,” he says. He points out that CLT/USA, a 29 per cent shareholder in C5, is also a major shareholder in French channel M6: “M6 derives a huge proportion of its revenue from merchandising.” Programmes which could spawn spin-offs include Family Affairs and Xena: Warrior Princess.

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