Producer: Merger would protect children's TV

Phil Redmond delivers RTS opening keynote

LONDON -- Longtime U.K. children's producer Phil Redmond has called for a merger of BBC and Channel 4 in a bid to protect children's television, while delivering the opening keynote at this year's Royal Television Society conference.

Redmond, the creator of such British generational classics as seminal high school soap "Grange Hill," longtime Channel 4 access primetime soap "Brookside" and teen soap "Hollyoaks."

"The best way to protect and keep children's television as a public service -- is to keep TV as a public service -- is to consolidate our public assets into one public service provider," he said. Redmond said that a merged BBC/Channel 4 should form a single public service provider that would be underwritten by the BBC license fee and supplemented by Channel 4's advertising and sponsorship income. Redmond argued that BBC1 and BBC 2 should be "freed from the tyranny of ratings" and "act as the cultural R&D incubator for new ideas, innovation, training, skills and, inevitably, through that -- provocation -- the shock of the new."

But the speech is unlikely to provoke a policy U-turn by the U.K.'s two publicly owned broadcasters, which have been given the brief to compete by the government, in order to avoid the BBC becoming the dominant TV player in television.

"It would be a marriage made in TV hell," said one member of the BBC's oversight body the BBC Trust.