BBC chief re-pitches case for merger of U.K.'s Channel 4, Five


BBC director general Mark Thompson has come out in favor of a merger of Channel 4 and Five and called for scaling back regulatory restrictions on the pubcaster's commercial rivals.

Writing in the Financial Times on Monday, Thompson said a merger of the U.K. outlets would have advantages for both players in terms of acquisitions and digital plans.

The comments come as the government and regulators prepare to unveil proposals for Britain's public-service broadcasters in the face of the current economic gloom.

"Consolidation (of 4 and Five) could offer the prospect of both short- and long-term benefits: immediate cost savings and an increase in scale in key markets from advertising sales to program acquisition," the BBC boss wrote, saying the plan also will allow "a smaller number of larger players to focus on credible and affordable digital plans."

As CEO of Channel 4 in 2004, Thompson initiated merger talks with RTL-owned Five, but the impetus ground to a halt after he left to take the reins at the BBC.

Rival ITV is thought likely to fight a merger, fearing it will create a bigger, more competitive opponent. (partialdiff)