Channel 4 won't get BBC bailout


U.K. media regulator Ofcom published its blueprint on the future of public-service broadcasting Wednesday, ruling out "top-slicing" the BBC's license fee to support Channel 4 but leaving unanswered many questions about the future of the publicly owned network.

The media regulator, which also came out in favor of more commercial freedom for ailing ITV, said it backs protecting Channel 4 by strengthening the organization and making it part of a larger, more robust body, "preferably through partnerships, joint ventures or even mergers." But the much-anticipated report failed to cite specific recommendations.

Among options Ofcom has put forth for Channel 4 are a merger with rival commercial network Five, owned by RTL, and a partnership with BBC Worldwide. Both would face tough opposition.

Channel 4 CEO Andy Duncan and chairman Luke Johnson have opposed a merger with Five, saying the two are like "oil and water."

Instead, the Channel 4 execs have backed a merger with BBC Worldwide, the pubcaster's program-sales and channels division, an idea opposed by BBC director general Mark Thompson and chairman Michael Lyons. (partialdiff)