Channel 5’s new director of PR will be tuning in to a hostile television
When Sally Osman takes up the post of director of PR at Channel Five
Broadcasting next month, she will undoubtedly find her self back in the
front line of the acrimonious television war she bowed out of two years
The former Sky director of publicity, who is currently a publishing
director at Redwood Publishing, will find C5’s much publicised problem
of retuning people’s video recorders just one of a long list of problems
to be tackled.
She will also be up against a hostile and defensive ITV which will pull
out all stops to ward off any further threat to its already declining
audiences. ITV will also be working hard to ensure C5 doesn’t get its
hands on its advertisers who, it knows too well, are disgruntled with
rising media inflation and eager to find alternative mass audiences at a
C5 will also be competing against an ever increasing number of cable and
satellite channels. The launch of digital television next year will add
to the competition. With characteristic understatement Osman said in a
formal statement: ‘The launch of Britain’s final network broadcasting
channel, combined with the issue of retuning, is clearly a major
Osman, who declined to be interviewed, is no stranger to tough battles.
She survived three years as Sky’s director of press and publicity
reporting to Sky’s notoriously exacting chief executive Sam Chisholm at
a time when Sky was under siege from regulators and pressure from its
shareholders to do well.
Despite her small physique Osman is no pushover. ‘Sally’s terrific,
she’s a feisty little thing, She has a natural talent for PR and
communications and is great with people. I’ll be sorry to lose her,’
says Osman’s current boss, Redwood Publishing managing director Mike
Potter. Potter’s admiration for her professionalism is supported by even
harsher judges - media journalists.
‘I remember when Greg Dyke was calling press conferences left, right and
centre about Sky breaking ITC codes and Sally had to find ways to put
across the Sky story even though Chisholm would not give press
conferences or give out any information,’ recalls one journalist.
Osman herself is a former journalist. Educated at Solihull Girls School
and Exeter University, Osman was a trainee with Thomson regional
newspapers becoming a features writer and arts editor for the Cardiff-
based Western Mail. She joined the Daily Mail in 1986 leaving nine
months later to join the short-lived, and now defunct, London Daily
She later freelanced for woman’s titles and the Radio Times for six
months before joining the Omnicom-owned contract publisher Specialist
Publications as editorial director.
After three and half years she crossed the fence into PR, moving to Sky
as deputy director of press and publicity. Osman was promoted six months
later to the director’s job.
In early 1994 she became publishing director with British Sky
Broadcasting to develop Sky’s existing subscriber magazine and to
develop publishing ventures with other publishers and agencies. It was
through this job that she met Redwood’s Mike Potter. Redwood picked up
the contract in May 1994 to publish Sky TV Guide which has a circulation
of 2.7 million.
Potter welcomed the chance to take Osman on full time when she left
BSkyB. After initially looking after Sky TV Guide, Osman went on to be
publisher of the Harvey Nichols magazine HN and a customer magazine for
Boots the Chemist.
Osman may have been out of the broadcasting arena for two years, but she
certainly has not lost touch with it. Her name is immediately recognised
and respected by, journalists covering the field. Nor will she be
walking into the job cold. Her former Sky colleague Liz Roberts has been
holding the fort on a temporary basis until she arrives.
But with the war between ITV and C5 well under way, Osman will have
little chance to slip into the job gradually.
1981 Trainee reporter, Thomson regional newspaper
1986 Reporter, Daily Mail
1991 Deputy director press and publicity, Sky
1994 Publishing director, BSkyB
1996 Head of corporate and public relations, Channel 5