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Richard Desmond joins Project Canvas

Five's back in

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Richard Desmond, new owner of Channel 5, has thrust the channel back into Project Canvas, the BBC-led next-generation set-top box.

Five left the project just six weeks ago, citing the expense of its £16m share of the £115m start-up costs for the Project. Since then it has new owners - Desmond's Northern and Shell paid £103 at the end of July - and a new board.

He'd be daft not to take a gamble on Canvas. Spectrum squeeze and high debts mean that Five has missed out on an HD slot on FreeView and Freesat - although it Five HD is available on Sky's platform. The interactive nature of Canvas, which includes web widgets and an app store, suits a media empire that spans a variety of popular properties.

Desmond began publishing in 1974, moving into telephone sex chat lines and jazz mags in the 1980s. He sold off the latter in 2004. More respectable titles were added to the group, including the acquisition of Daily Express and Daily Star newspapers in 2000. In the most recent annual financial statement, N&S recorded profits of £41.1m on turnover of £483m for 2008, the bulk of which was earned from UK publishing, and employed over 1,100 staff. ®

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