LONDON: UK broadcaster Channel 4 should consider "partnerships, joint ventures or even mergers" to solve its funding shortfall, according to the nation's media watchdog Ofcom, fuelling speculation that Four may have to merge with rival commercial network Five.

Among the other options for Channel 4, Ofcom says, are forming a "new relationship" with BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the state-funded broadcaster, an idea previously rejected by the BBC.

Otherwise, C4 could "merge with a commercial organisation, such as Five", a notion that has been dismissed by Channel 4's ceo, Andy Duncan.

Argues a Channel 4 spokesman: "Our objection to a deal with Five is that a merger of that type would not solve the problems that both broadcasters face."

Overall, Ofcom argues, the UK commercial broadcast sector requires "profound structural changes" to ensure a wide range of programmes will be available to viewers.

As such, it also rejected the idea of "top slicing" the licence fee paid by UK viewers to fund the BBC, arguing this was vital to finance the sort of public service broadcasting neglected elsewhere.

Data sourced from The Times (UK); additional content by WARC staff