ITV's New Chairman Dons Kevlar-Lined Shorts

01 March 2004

Speaking in the wake of his appointment late last week as the first chairman of newly-merged British television giant ITV plc, Sir Peter Burt declared that he and the company face a year of regulatory battles.

The former chief executive of Bank of Scotland -- arguably one of the world's most aggressive banks -- is no stranger to combat. Speaking to the Financial Times, he insisted that his experience in dealing with regulators is more relevant to his new role than any grounding in the media industry -- which he signally lacks.

"Having been a banker for twenty-seven years I've spent a lot of time dealing with regulators," Burt told the newspaper. "And the broadcasting industry is going through a period of great regulatory change. With so many channels, it's unclear whether broadcasting is the correct term any longer. Maybe we are looking at narrowcasting."

ITV has already stated that the main priority in its first year as a single entity is to seek a reduction in the spectrum, licence and other regulatory costs that annually lop £475 million ($889.26m; €711.85m) from its bottom line.

The knight was upbeat about ITV's leeway for revenue growth: "I think ITV has great potential. It's a brand new company with huge market share to start with."

But he denies the main reason for the appointment of a former banker is to prepare the company for takeover -- a scenario that would have been anathema to the former chairman-designate Michael Green who was deposed late last year by a cabal of City and Wall Street interests.

"I believe very strongly that ITV has not just an independent future, but extremely attractive prospects for a profitable business," Burt insists. The matter of independence is "almost irrelevant", he said.

"The more I believe it has a real future going ahead, the more attractive it will be to somebody else. All the [ITV] management can do is run the company to the best of their abilities and let the chips fall where they fall."

As a senior and successful banker, Burt well knows that this philosophy is nonsense. A company can set up near-impregnable defences against takeover if it so chooses. But his gambling analogy is singularly apt.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff