EXCLUSIVE: Richard Desmond's Northern & Shell Surprised at Shine legal Spat

Shine pledges support for other indies' legal actions


LONDON -- Richard Desmond's Northern & Shell has reacted with surprise to the legal spat brought by Elisabeth Murdoch's Shine Group over queried bills relating to Don't Stop Believing and said it was dismayed by the public accusation that it was trying to put small independent production companies out of business.

"Richard has run businesses for over thirty years and doesn't try to put people out of business. He's very proud of that. We build businesses for the long term and we very much want to grow Channel 5 as we have grown the Daily Express, the Daily Star and OK! Magazine," a Northern & Shell spokesman said.

Northern & Shell said that it had already made contractual payments of over £5 million ($7.9 million) relating to the music talent show fronted by former Spice Girl Emma Bunton, and that only details of a final invoice of less than a million pounds was being queried.

A spokesman for Shine said that a "near-million pound" debt owed under contract was still outstanding.

"That previous installments have been met does not negate the outstanding debts owed," he added.

Yesterday Shine publicly accused Northern & Shell of having a track record of heavy-handedness and "taking an overtly aggressive stance towards its suppliers."

Launched by Elisabeth Murdoch in 2001, Shine is one of the U.K.'s biggest independent producers and has a global network of independent production assets including Ben Silverman's former outfit Reveille, and Spooks creator Kudos. Shine went on to say that Northern & Shell's behavior was "not acceptable" within the U.K.'s independent TV production sector

Shine has also taken the unusual legal step of saying it would financially support other independent production companies in legal action against Channel 5.

"Shine is fortunate to be one of the U.K.'s most successful creative companies and able to stand up to Channel 5's new owners throwing their weight around," the producer said.

"However, for smaller companies, who are the backbone of our creative economy, this behavior threatens their very survival. The Shine Group is therefore offering support to independent Channel 5 program makers who are threatened with insolvency by Northern & Shell's refusal to pay overdue bills."

The Shine-produced talent show was commissioned prior to Northern & Shell acquiring Channel 5, the British network behind The Gadget Show, CSI and The Mentalist.

The £650,000 ($1 million) an episode show flailed in the ratings after a promising start, a performance Shine attributed to it being moved around in the schedule.