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Friday, May 14, 1999 Published at 22:33 GMT 23:33 UK


David Elstein

David Elstein: Has the widest experience in broadcasting

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Popularly supposed to be the cleverest man in broadcasting, David Elstein (one of the youngest students to get a double first at Cambridge), also has the widest experience in all branches of the broadcasting business of any candidate.

A BBC trainee, he worked on current affairs programmes for both the BBC and ITV (he was editor of Thames Television's This Week) before becoming a pioneering independent producer when Channel 4 launched in 1982. In 1986 he was back at Thames as director of programmes, then worked as head of programmes for Sky Television before joining Channel 5 as chief executive a few months before its launch.

The biggest black mark against him: a widespread belief that he thinks the BBC licence fee should be abolished and replaced by subscription. If he ever did believe that he has recently refined his position significantly, arguing that the licence fee is necessary for the foreseeable future but that subscription will naturally replace it as digital technology becomes universal.

Also favours a supplement to the licence fee payable by anyone with a digital TV.

He would be a formidable advocate for the BBC, with the same capacity to think strategically as the present director-general, Sir John Birt. But Channel 5's controversial record (criticised by regulators - unfairly in his view - for its "tacky" late-night erotic programming) may count against him.

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