Sky, in which Rupert Murdoch‘s News Corporation has a thirty nine percent stake, is believed to have joined forces with Discovery Communications to buy Channel 5 that airs Big Brother, Neighbours and Angelina Ballerina.
The offer was one of several for the broadcaster when the second round of bids closed this week. Discovery Communications is understood to be planning to take a seventy percent stake and Sky the remaining thirty percent.
Channel 5 is expected to hand both Discovery Communications and Sky a valuable free to air platform on which to promote paid content. Under Richard Desmond‘s ownership the ad breaks have been filled with advertisements for his Daily Express and Daily Star Newspapers.
It is more than a decade since the law was changed to allow Murdoch to buy Channel 5 in the 2003 Communications Act, the so-called Murdoch clause removing the fifth channel from the ban on ownership of terrestrial television stations by companies with more than twenty percent of the national newspaper market. The change prompted accusations of a regulatory cop-out by the then Labour government and fears that it would threaten viewer choice and media plurality in Britain.
Although Richard Desmond bought Chanel 5 for just over £100m four years ago, slashing costs and bringing Big Brother over from Channel 4, he had originally slapped a £700m price tag on the broadcaster.
The expected bid made from Discovery Communications and Sky is around £350m for Channel 5 which seems a bit exaggerated, however, with some industry sources suggesting bids for Channel 5 made by both Discovery Communications and Sky were below the £300m mark.
It remains to be seen whether this bid will be enough to persuade Richard Desmond to sell.