When Channel Five finally got off the ground in March 1997, it was already shrouded in a cloud of cynicism.
The idea of introducing a fifth channel to rival the UK’s existing stations had already been discussed years before the official launch.
Scepticism was increased due to low ratings, which were caused partly by the fact that the station could reach only 50 per cent of the UK population a month after the channel’s launch.
Colin Campbell, director of legal and business affairs at Channel Five, says: “The key issue that Channel Five faced when it first started was that it wasn’t allocated frequencies that would enable it to reach the whole of the country.”
However, three years later, Channel Five has upped its coverage of the UK market to 80 per cent through the use of cable, satellite, analogue and digital technology, while securing the rights to televise prestigious football matches, including some of the Euro 2000 qualifying rounds.
Campbell says: “We spend a lot of time trying to keep up with new media and new technology because that is our future.”
While Goodman Derrick and Olswang work on more specialised areas for Channel Five’s internal legal department, Campbell says that the company outsources company and commercial work to Travers Smith Braithwaite.
The team uses Clifford Chance for banking and has also used it, surprisingly, for intellectual property (IP) work, which companies usually outsource to smaller, more specialised firms.
Campbell says: “The IP issues were, to be specific, to do with the internet and start-up businesses and we felt that they were the right people to go to.”
But Campbell is quick to point out that the legal department tries to keep as much work as possible in-house.
“We only send out what we can’t do either through lack of expertise or occasionally workload,” he says.
But he adds: “With things like funding arrangements for the company, clearly it is better to have a City firm on board and with one or two things to do with our digital ambitions we will also use outside firms.”
In specialised cases, Campbell says, the in-house team will take advice directly from a silk.
Although designated lawyers work on specific areas internally, Campbell says work like compliance is also outsourced to DJ Freeman. “DJ Freeman help where it is required. They have lots of expertise on compliance issues like defamation and litigation but thankfully there isn’t much of that. They’ve got some expertise on trademarks which we occasionally dip into as well,” he says.
Channel Five also has several business affairs lawyers.
Campbell says: “The business affairs lawyers work largely by reference to a programming genre.
“We don’t do massive amounts of drama so one lawyer deals with drama and entertainment, another with factual news and current affairs, another does features and so on.”
In addition Campbell says that both he and one other lawyer advise on sports issues, with outside advice provided by Townleys.
He says: “[Sport]is an important area. Both sports and films are an important part of our schedule and unlike commission programmes where we tend to spend a bit less than our terrestrial competitors, on sport we are competing on a like-for-like basis.”
Head of legal
|Legal function||Ten lawyers|
|Head of legal||Colin Campbell|
|Reporting to||David Elstein, chief executive officer|
|Main location for lawyers||London|
|Main law firms||Travers Smith Braithwaite, Clifford Chance, DJ Freeman, Goodman Derrick, Olswang, Townleys|