THE production company behind Chewin' The Fat, the Karen Dunbar Show, Only an Excuse? and Rab C Nesbitt is in talks with a London-based company that wants to buy it for around GBP10m.

The Glasgow-based Comedy Unit, one of Scotland's best known and most successful independent TV firms, is believed to be close to be being purchased by RDF Media, which makes shows such as Location, Location, Location and Wife Swap.

The move would mean one of the biggest production companies north of the border becoming part of a group which last year purchased IWC Media, then owned in part by Kirsty Wark and Muriel Gray, in a deal worth around GBP9m.

The Comedy Unit, set up 10 years ago by former BBC Scotland producers April Chamberlain and Colin Gilbert, refused to comment on the deal last night.

However, RDF Media said in a statement: "RDF confirms that it is in discussions with the Comedy Unit and will update shareholders further in due course."

Figures in the broadcasting industry broadly welcomed the move last night, with Stuart Cosgrove, the head of nations and regions for Channel Four, saying it was "good for Scotland" and could transform them into a "powerhouse".

He said: "The Comedy Unit is one of the most successful 'indies' outside London and has been ambitious to grow [into] network business and extend the reach of comedy. RDF will give them the scale and opportunities to expand to the next level, and become a real power-house for comedy production.

"On balance, this is good news for Scotland, as the critical issue for the sector is attracting more substantial network production. The Comedy Unit already has a major profile, but with the support of RDF nationally and internationally, the opportunities will grow."

Ken Hay, the chief executive of Scottish Screen, also broadly welcomed the move. "As we've already seen with IWC, investment from other companies grows the sector in Scotland.

"This acquisition by RDF of one of our most successful independent production companies will mean more highquality production from Scotland and more employment for our talent."

Conar Digman, editor of Broadcast magazine, added: "People thinking 'this is the end of The Comedy Unit as an independent' are misunderstanding the term, as RDF is still an independent company from broadcasters and compared to their resources, is small in size.

"This should be greeted as a good news story in Scotland, it's a vote of confidence for talent and production in Scotland."

The Comedy Unit has two comedy pilots airing with BBC Scotland in the coming weeks - In Voluntary starring Karen Dunbar and Julie Wilson Nimmo, and Legit starring Jordan Young and Stevie McNicoll. Chewin' the Fat and Only an Excuse? have both been commissioned for broadcast around Hogmanay and there will also be a Still Game Christmas special.

The company is also touring a show in Scotland this autumn, with Rikki & Me starring Tony Roper and Gerard Kelly, based on the life of Rikki Fulton.

If a deal is finalised, it would be only the latest in a series of acquisitions by RDF since its GBP48.8m flotation on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) last year.

Earlier this month, it reached a GBP10m deal for Maidstone-based Foundation TV Productions, home of Basil Brush and the Saturday morning show Ministry of Mayhem.

The Comedy Unit also makes radio shows for Radio 4, Radio Scotland, and Radio Five Live.

RDF is based in London and has offices in Glasgow, Bristol, Cardiff, NewYork, and Los Angeles and employs about 500 people. Unlike many other independent television production firms, RDF has its own international distribution business and consumer arm that generates revenues from DVDs, books, and merchandise linked to its shows.

Mr Gilbert set up the Comedy Unit after a long career with the BBC. He was script editor on Scotch and Wry and Not the Nine O'Clock News, devised and produced the topical radio series Naked Radio, and produced and directed shows such as Rab C Nesbitt, A Kick Up The Eighties, Naked Video, and The Tales of Para Handy.

He has been either producer or executive producer of virtually all the Comedy Unit's productions since he established it as a separate company 10 years ago.

Ms Chamberlain, a business manager for the comedy department of BBC Scotland for three years, left to become a founder member and director of the Comedy Unit with Mr Gilbert.