Select Committee on Communications Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 107 - 119)


Mr Chris Shaw and Ms Sue Robertson

  Q107  Chairman: I will not go through the introduction because I think you heard it the last time round, but welcome very much and we appreciate you coming. I wonder if I could start by asking who is five owned by?

  Ms Robertson: We are owned by RTL and they are in turn 90% owned by Bertelsmann.

  Q108  Chairman: RTL is a company registered in Luxembourg?

  Ms Robertson: Yes.

  Q109  Chairman: And Bertelsmann is—

  Ms Robertson: Based in Gütesloh, they are registered in Germany. They are a private company so they are not listed, whereas, I think, roughly 10% of RTL is publicly listed, not in the UK but in Europe.

  Q110  Chairman: So predominantly you are under private ownership, are you?

  Ms Robertson: I suppose you could say that, yes. RTL do their interim figures and annual reports and are transparent about their finances.

  Q111  Chairman: And RTL has a big portfolio of other media companies?

  Ms Robertson: They have got a large portfolio of other media companies. RTL Germany is one of the largest, and they have a share in M6 in France, REN TV, in Russia, RTL KLUB in Hungary and Antena 3 in Spain. They are the largest pan-European broadcasting company and they have radio interests in France and Belgium.

  Q112  Chairman: And sitting at the head of it is who?

  Ms Robertson: Sitting at the head of RTL is Gerhard Zeiler. He is the CEO of RTL.

  Q113  Chairman: But is it a traditional family company?

  Ms Robertson: Bertelsmann is a family trust and the Mohn family Controls the trust ,but the people we most have our dealings with are RTL and Gerhard. Zeiler who is the CEO of RTL, he attends all of our board meetings. He is a broadcaster himself. He used to run RTL Germany, so we are not dealing with very distant shareholders who do not know anything about broadcasting. He is interested in the schedules and the broadcasting part of our role and he understands what we need to do as a broadcaster.

  Q114  Chairman: So it is a foreign-owned company?

  Ms Robertson: A European-owned company.

  Q115  Chairman: A European-owned company; thank you.

  Ms Robertson: There is a distinction.

  Q116  Chairman: I prefer not to have this debate. What impact does that have upon the news that you provide? Does it have any impact?

  Ms Robertson: Our ownership?

  Q117  Chairman: Yes.

  Ms Robertson: No. As far as RTL are concerned they want us to run a channel that is going to work in the UK. They are not forcing us to take any programmes or do any particular types of programming or have any editorial role in terms of what is on the news or, come to that, in the programme scheduling.

  Q118  Chairman: And you take your news service from—?

  Ms Robertson: We take our news service from Sky.

  Q119  Chairman: And how much do you pay for that?

  Mr Shaw: We pay roughly £10 million for our news, most of which goes to Sky, but not all of it. Some presenters we contract directly.

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