Channel 4 boss dismisses merger proposal

Andy Duncan rejects proposals for C4/Five merger

LONDON -- Channel 4 chief executive Andy Duncan has dismissed proposals to allow a merger of government-owned Channel 4 with RTL-owned Five as "a mess," describing plans to consolidate the U.K.'s advertising funded broadcasters as "penguins crowding together for safety on a rapidly melting ice floe."

In a speech delivered to government science, technology and arts body Nesta Thursday, Duncan said that the U.K.'s commercial broadcasters are at risk because of "underlying structural problems" that would not be solved by deploying "solutions of the past."

"It makes no sense whatsoever to imagine that merging a not-for-profit publicly owned broadcast business with a for-profit, privately owned broadcaster is going to solve the fundamental structural problems we are all facing," he said. "Mixing oil and water doesn't work. It just makes a mess."

Duncan called on the government to back Britain's creative industry by extending the model of intervention and commercial activity, and said that U.K. broadcasters will increasingly have to look abroad "to raise a share of the revenues necessary to fund high-quality British content."

Duncan's comments come at a tense time for Britain's commercial broadcasters, who are anxiously awaiting for the government to unveil a new blueprint for the industry, potentially slashing red tape and quota regulations for ITV and opening up the possibility of increased government support for Channel 4.

Earlier in the week, BBC director general Mark Thompson gave his support for a Channel 4/Five merger in a bid to fend off the prospect of sharing BBC license fee cash with Channel 4. On Tuesday, ITV executive chairman Michael Grade warned that ITV might be forced to scale down drama and news if its regulatory burden was not slashed.