RTL chief says it will not sell its stake in Five to Murdoch

LONDON - Debate over lifting of media ownership restrictions in the new communications bill could be moot, after RTL, owner of a majority stake in the fifth terrestrial station Five, said it would not sell.

In an interview with the Financial Times' Creative Business supplement today, RTL chief executive Gerhard Zeiler said that the company would not sell its 65% stake in Five to Rupert Murdoch should the law be changed to allow Murdoch to own a terrestrial station.

"We are not sellers of Five," he said. "Anyone who wants to get his hands on Five, it's fine by us, but we won't sell it."

Far from selling up, RTL said that it would like to increase its stake in the channel, and Zeiler said that if co-owner United Business Media, run by Lord Hollick, wanted to sell then RTL would "definitely want to be in there".

Murdoch has repeatedly said that he does not want to buy Five, but industry commentators believe that the media baron still holds an ambition to own a terrestrial channel in the UK.

The House of Lords looks set to put the kibosh on the government's plans to relax media laws over concerns that Murdoch could use Five to cross-promote his satellite broadcasting channel Sky or his newspaper interests, which include The Sun and The Times.

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