Virgin could sell UKTV stake to BBC, C4

Virgin Media's 50% stake in UKTV may be purchased by BBC Worldwide and Channel 4 as part of plans for the two companies to develop partnerships.

On Wednesday, media regulator Ofcom said that Channel 4 needed to embark on "a structural relationship with another organisation" and look into partnerships, possibly with BBC Worldwide, for it to survive as a public service broadcaster in competition with the licence fee funded BBC. There have also been suggestions that it merge with Five, an idea dismissed by Channel 4 chief executive Andy Duncan.

It is understood that Channel 4 would enter into a partnership with BBC Worldwide with a "dowry" consisting of Virgin Media's 50% stake in UKTV. According to The Guardian, Virgin Media may prepare the necessary documents within the coming fortnight.

Speaking at the Oxford Media Convention today, media secretary Andy Burnham said that "the Channel 4 brand for viewers is here to stay" but that it should explore whether a "successful partnership model" exists.
"It is time to consider whether a new structure can evolve which will enable a new more specific remit for Channel 4 - building on its distinctive position as an innovative broadcaster while broadening its core public purposes," said Burnham. "A body with public service at its heart, but one which is free to develop flexible and innovative partnerships with the wider public and private sector."