PROFILE: Sally Osman, Channel 5; Switching on to Channel 5

Channel 5’s new director of PR will be tuning in to a hostile television war

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

lower cost.

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

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