James Murdoch has ruled out swapping British Sky Broadcasting's stake in ITV for ownership of Five, RTL's UK channel. The satellite broadcaster, which has a paper loss of about £320 million (E463m) on its 17.9 per cent stake, may be forced by the Competition Commission to sell its stake. The Commission is expected to make its recommendation to ministers next month.
“There's this big theory that Sky's going to buy channel Five, that's what Sky really wants. I'll just tell you right now, it isn't,” Murdoch told a bank conference. He said: “We think the ITV franchise is a valuable one … We intend to be a long-term shareholder to get returns from that, and we'll see how that goes.”
Meanwhile ITV chief Michael Grade reiterated his belief Sky's intend was to materially influence events and that it should be forced to sell all of its stake. He also said he saw no merit for ITV in a new approach from Virgin Media, which was in the process of bidding for ITV when Sky bougfht its' stake.