Between the Lines: Duncan is right to shun five, Friday, 19 November 2004 12:00AM

When Andy Duncan arrived as Channel 4's new chief executive, he began hatching a plan to "futureproof" the channel.

So not surprisingly, it emerged this week that C4's merger discussions with its rival five (begun by Duncan's predecessor Mark Thompson) have been ditched (page 5). Hitching C4's star to the pedestrian, shamelessly populist five would have undermined all that C4 has proudly stood for since its launch in 1982.

But Duncan's decision is about more than creative incompatibility. In an increasingly multichannel TV world, C4 is finding it ever harder to meet its public service remit out of its advertising purse and Ofcom's plans to set up a public service publisher will exacerbate the issue.

It's vital C4 is given sufficient funding to return to its innovative, edgy public service heritage. Duncan's next task is to work out how to make a strong case for a mixed-funding formula, common on the continent (page 17). If he can pull this off, Duncan could prove to be C4's most successful chief executive for some time.

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