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Sunday, August 30, 1998 Published at 21:58 GMT 22:58 UK


Reds on the box

Going on air in just over a year's time

Producers of Manchester United's own television channel say they will not be influenced by the boardroom.

MUTV - due to be launched on digital on 10 September 1999 - is promising to provide impartial news and features on the club.

[ image:
"It's showbiz, it's celebrity ... it's Posh and Beckham"
On air between 6pm and midnight every day of the year at a cost of £4.99 a month, the "first daily team channel" has lined up a host of 'lifestyle' slots and news bulletins.

Cookery spots with the team chef, Jesper Jesperson, promise to tickle fans' tastebuds.

The 'Manu Menu' is set to feature such delights as the Scholes sizzler, the Beckham burger - and even a slice of Stam Spam.

MUTV managing director Paul Ridley told a media audience at the International Television Festival in Edinburgh that glamour, also, was firmly on the menu.

[ image: Fans all over the world watch the likes of Giggs and Beckham]
Fans all over the world watch the likes of Giggs and Beckham
He said: "Football isn't just about playing any more. It is showbiz, it is celebrity, it is Beckham and Posh.

"The response that I have had from the players has been immensely supportive.

"It will help them to have a better manner on camera and better media skills so that they can conduct themselves better in a press environment.

"The players have agreed to give MUTV some of their time."

He explained that players have contractually agreed access for MUTV, but that would not mean they would be hounded.

He denied that MUTV would be a "bland" advertisement for the club, although it would be owned and supported by it.

[ image: Fans will be able to buy merchandise from their sofas]
Fans will be able to buy merchandise from their sofas
And it would have editorial independence, he said.

He added: "This is not Pravda we are going to make here.

"I can only tell you that we are going to go for it."

Presenter Mark Pearson said: "At the end of the day, you have to be the voice of the fans.

"You have to be critical if the club is performing badly. Hopefully the occasion won't arise."

But fanzine editor and journalist Jim White did not believe it.

He said: "They are not going to be asked about David Beckham's love life.

"They will be asked about very bland things."

Sofa shopping

One of the services the board will hope MUTV viewers take full advantage of is 'Megastore Megabuys'.

Previews for the home shopping section promise fans the opportunity to purchase "shirts to shorts, photos to flags, mugs to any other merchandise" without leaving the sofa.

MUFC - a club which enjoys the biggest turnover in the footballing world - is worth about £500m.

This time last year Manchester United was estimated to have generated £18.7m in merchandising income in the previous financial year.

[ image: Gone but not forgotten - especially with classic marches planned for broadcast]
Gone but not forgotten - especially with classic marches planned for broadcast
The figure represented more than the majority of English clubs' total turnover.

Other slots will include a 'Kids Clinic' where lucky youngsters from around the country will get a chance to train at the Theatre of Dreams.

Classic matches from the 70s and 80s will be screened.

And 'Jump 'N' Pump' will see MUTV's own "aerobics girls" putting fans through their paces.

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