Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

City Spy

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

City Spy

Article excerpt

ASKED if he thinks Sky's 18% stake will have a material influence on ITV, new executive chairman Michael Grade replied: "Absolutely not." Here's the same Michael Grade, writing in the Daily Telegraph in 1995 about Sky's boss. Rupert Murdoch "has been allowed to construct an operational base in the UK which makes a mockery of all the rhetoric of a level playing-field".

Having launched Sky on top of owning newspapers, Grade feared he would turn to terrestrial TV. "If Murdoch's tentacles now attach themselves to a national terrestrial network, he will take an unbreakable stranglehold on our entire broadcasting system. Unless Parliament acts, he will be unstoppable."

Grade appealed for Sky's owner to be barred from even being allowed a 20% stake in the new Channel 5. "The truth is a Murdoch foothold in British terrestrial TV will have enormous and damaging consequences. First, he has no history of passive investment; however small his apparent shareholding, he plays to win. Second, it will greatly accelerate his domination of British commercial TV."

MORE Grade on Murdoch - this time from his autobiography, It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time, published seven years ago: "It is a scandal that a foreigner has been able to amass so much media real estate in Britain without any real challenge." He goes on: "He's like Moses crossing the Red Sea; the waves always mysteriously part to allow him through."

AT 33, BSkyB chief James Murdoch is the same age as Grade's eldest son, Jonathan...

ITV was keen to go into great detail as to how its chairman and his deputy, Sir Peter Burt and Sir George Russell, courted and then recruited Grade as executive chairman. Does that mean headhunters Zygos won't get a finder's fee ? They almost certainly will, eventually, since Zygos can claim the goalposts moved - the agency's brief was to find a chief executive, not a chairman. …

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