Media Medium
26 September 2000


Five alive and well

Channel 5 has 6% of the viewing figures and this cheeky three- year old is small but growing. With a populist horoscope and strong Jupiter influences in the next two years, its future looks upbeat, but its raison d 'etre shows little of the joy of broadcasting or programme making. By its own definition, it aims to fulfil the need of advertisers for 'more commercial viewing and less expensive airtime'.

Channel 5's incorporation (January 17 1996) shows an ambitious Capricorn with excellent money-making possibilities, especially through a soft-porn Venus-Pluto combination in its cash zone. Its Spice Girls launch (6.00pm, March 30 1997) flaunts a bunch of planets in crude, simple-minded Aries. With a nude gameshow and late-night lust, 'Channel Filth' has earned the ire of all right- thinking people represented by the Daily Mail. Not surprisingly, it is run by Scorpios, the sign of sex, death and secrets, who share consecutive birthdates: CEO David Elstein (November 14 1944), and Director of Programmes Dawn Airey (November 15 1960). Both Scorpio and Aries relish a fight, and with aggressive Mars rising, C5 has gone for a 'challenger brand' approach to self-promotion, deliberately rocking the status quo. Dawn Airey says the channel has 'excellence and depth', but she sees its niche, in her own words, as 'films, fucking and football', 'bosoms, balls and brutality'.

So what does this do to the battle between the channels? The astrology shows an intriguing game being played out here. Lorraine Heggessey (November 16 1956), the new BBC1 controller, is another Scorpio with a powerful sting, and look at these birthdates: Elstein November 14, Airey November 15, Heggessey November 16. Within a couple of degrees, all three share the same Scorpio sun. This, and other connections between the horoscopes, especially involving Mars, indicate that Channel 5 has successfully defined the territory over which the BBC and the larger channels have to fight.

Its strategy indicates the way their war will go. Monica Lewinsky (July 23 1973), that notable political commentator, is to be Channel 5's presenter for its US election coverage. As a dramatic Leo with a ballsy Mars-Uranus across the Channel 5 horizon, she is a provocative choice. In the ratings war, politics, like everything else, is sucked into 'fff and bbb'.

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