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Commercial TV to boom and C4 to be privatised

LONDON - The commercial broadcasting sector could move into another boom period in the next 10 years and Channel 4 could find itself privatised, according to an Independent Television Commission report.

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The findings was one of four possible predictions, which came out of a survey conducted by the ITC among top media executives including IPC Media chief executive Sly Bailey, managing director of Sky Networks Dawn Airey, PHD deputy chairman Tess Alps and Investec Henderson Crosthwaite's Mathew Horsman.

Advertising revenues would grow along with the multichannel TV sector in a world where commercial broadcasters would compete against an equally strong BBC.

The panel was asked to come up with four possible outcomes for the future of the UK TV industry by 2012.

The first scenario would see us living in a digital world in the next 10 years. Four of five commercial networks would provide content across a range of platforms from TV to PDAs.

There would be nationwide take-up of broadband and digital switchover would have taken place by 2010, with commercial TV overtaking the BBC as public support for the licence fee fades. Channel 4 would be privatised and part of a large global organisation.

A more depressing possibility would see the UK media market fail to progress, with digital switchover by 2010 abandoned and conventional TV remaining a key part of people's lives.

The panel believes this market would be dominated by BSkyB and the BBC. Channel 4 meanwhile, would receive part of the BBC's licence fee, as it would be seen as necessary to ensure competition, but it would have no commercial ventures.

The third possible outcome would see TV replaced by new media. The BBC's broadcast output would become less popular, but its online and radio services would thrive. Channel 4 would also succeed in new media by expanding to provide broadband services.

However, this scenario would not be particularly healthy for commercial broadcasters ITV and Five. This would be because although the UK economy would be strong, TV advertising revenues would fall as consumers would watch fewer ad breaks, while those people that did watch TV would not be of the demographic that advertisers are chasing -- the 18- to 34-year-old ABC1 demographic.

The final outcome would see the UK TV industry prosper, with a stronger BBC having the potential to develop its commercial activities.

The only way for commercial broadcasters such as ITV and Five to compete in this field would be if they were owned by global media players -- the same would apply to Channel 4. Advertising revenues would also increase along with growth in multichannel TV.

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