Channel 4 and Five ditch talks over merger plans

Channel 4 and Five have abandoned merger talks following months of speculation about the pairing.

After a meeting with fellow board members on Monday, Channel 4 chief executive Andy Duncan is understood to have informed Five’s management and shareholders yesterday of the broadcaster’s decision to withdraw.

It will have come as no surprise to many in the television industry: at the Edinburgh Television Festival in August, it appeared that the merger talks were running out of steam (MW September 2).

The news will be a relief to many advertisers, who fear further consolidation in the television industry will drive up prices.

Duncan says: “With concerns being raised about our future funding, it was legitimate for us to explore this merger, but we’ve concluded that protecting and strengthening Channel 4’s public service role isn’t compatible with the full merger that was proposed.”

A Five spokesman says: “Although the benefits of a merger would have been significant, Five’s shareholders have come to the conclusion that the complexity of combining a commercial and a publicly owned entity, and the constraints on the likely structure, would have been too great.”

Duncan, who inherited the merger plan from his predecessor Mark Thompson, has made it clear that he is prepared to explore smaller scale operational tie-ups with Five, although there are no talks at present.

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