Shine TV to sue Desmond over 'Believing'
Monday, October 18 2010, 09:48 BST
By Andrew Laughlin,

Elisabeth Murdoch's Shine TV group is reportedly preparing legal action against Richard Desmond's Northern & Shell over an alleged unpaid bill for talent show Don't Stop Believing.

Murdoch, who is the daughter of media tycoon Rupert, is understood to have instructed lawyers to sue N&S over its treatment of her firm, Shine Productions. She has also pledged to support smaller producers in the same position.

Presented by Emma Bunton, Don't Stop Believing was acquired by Channel 5 in a multi-million pound deal in July. However, the show rated very poorly over the summer, dropping as low as 587,000 in its primetime Sunday slot.

Desmond is understood to be refusing to pay a seven-figure invoice submitted by Shine as he seeks to gain a part-refund for the flop talent show.

In response, Shine Productions has instructed lawyers Reed Smith to recover the near 1m debt from N&S as relations sour between the two parties. Shine is also keen to support other production firms that have been affected by Desmond's stance on suppliers.

In a statement, Shine's head of communications Patrick Keegan said: "Shine is fortunate to be one of the UK's most successful creative companies and able to stand up to Channel 5's new owners throwing their weight around.

"However, for smaller companies, who are the backbone of our creative economy, this behaviour threatens their very survival.

"The Shine Group is therefore offering support to independent Channel 5 programme-makers who are threatened with insolvency by N&S's refusal to pay overdue bills."

Pact, the UK trade body representing independent producers, told The Financial Times that around 10 smaller firms were in similar disputes with Desmond's N&S group, which acquired Channel 5 earlier in the year.

John McVay, chief executive of Pact, said that he had recently held talks with N&S in response to complaints from members about changing terms and conditions.

"[N&S] are changing 30-day payment terms to 60 days plus end of the month. The larger companies may be able to survive the effect on their cash flow, but many of the smaller ones can't," McVay said.

McVay added that N&S was using "the most brutal tactics I have ever seen in the TV industry" and that "millions and millions of pounds" were at stake in the disputes.