RTL boss calls for C4/C5 merger

Gerhard Zeiler, CEO at RTL Group, is arguing in favour of a merger between its UK network Channel Five and publicly-owned broadcaster Channel 4. “Channel 4 and Five share many characteristics ... A merger that brings together two such complementary broadcasters would create a much stronger operator,” he said in an article.

Zeiler’s piece was published in the London Financial Times and follows on from so-called secret meetings between senior staff at Channel 4 and Five. "What is needed is a solution that has a long-term industrial logic while preparing both channels for the 'any time, anywhere' personalised digital world," he said. "That solution could be a merger between Channel 4 and Five."

Channel 4’s chairman Luke Johnson admits he initiated the recent talks with Five, but now says that a merger would denude C4’s culture and shrink the variety of voices you get to hear or see on air. One of his arguments concerns the amount of state aid currently going to banks, car-makers and others to keep them afloat during this economic downturn. He argues that C4 is already publicly owned, and thus is a strong candidate for a bit of public cash.

The government’s view seems to be shaping up to be the direct opposite, and selling off the asset to raise cash now seems a strong possibility. There are likely to be further statements from Ofcom and other interested parties this week.