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Now for the real story behind the headlines.

Byline: Phil REDMOND

HEADLINES. If one picture is worth a thousand words, what value a headline? I had hoped these past weeks would have been taken up with celebrating Brookside's achievements over the last 20 years. Then, I had planned to reveal our expansion, growth and succession strategy for the next 20 years of Mersey Television. But life just ain't like that.

Instead, the headlines have gone to speculation over Brookside's demise, me threatening to close Hollyoaks and, according to yesterday's Daily Post, I'm quitting Mersey Television! All headlines, of course. Get the interest then tell the story. It's a simple technique, but it works.

I'm using it myself on Brookside at the moment. The drug siege and promised helicopter crash are the headlines to get everyone to look at the programme. We will then tell the stories of those characters involved.

So what are the stories behind the off-screen headlines? Brookside's move out of prime time in itself was not an issue. We all knew that Channel 4 could not support the programme in its current slot because competition from the other channels is too strong. It was the timing. Three weeks ahead of our pounds 1.5m relaunch? It's just daft. Frustrating as it sounds, I am still waiting to meet Channel 4 to find out exactly what is going on.

The Hollyoaks story grew out of me making my usual mistake and telling the truth. I said publicly that, as Channel 4 themselves damaged Brookside by constantly moving its transmission time over the past four years, I didn't want to discover in two years' time that they had messed up Hollyoaks in the same way.

Are they the right broadcaster to protect the brand and the hundreds of jobs that go with it? That transposed into the ``Redmond threatens Channel 4" headlines. So, like all headlines, some truth, a lot of attention grabbing.

Yesterday's front page was a classic. Am I quitting? No, well yes, but, like everyone else in life, only eventually. In the short term, nothing will change. Business as usual. But, over the next few years, I am determined to make sure we have the right people with the calibre and skills to drive Mersey Television's next 20 years.

To do that I wanted to find a business investor who would be both supportive and share the vision, as well as help send a clear signal that Mersey Television is changing. It is no longer a vehicle just for my own work. It is going to be bigger than that.

The real story is that it has taken three years and nine months of intensive negotiations to find the right investor, Lloyds Development Capital, and announce the changes. So that's the story. I'm not quitting - OK?

But the other function of a headline is to make things sound interesting. ``Owner Unveils Expansion and Succession Plan'' is not really the sexiest headline!
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Nov 8, 2002
Words:487
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