BSkyB Offered Place in UK Digital Coalition

03 June 2002

The fragile coalition of British broadcasters, bidding for the digital terrestrial licences formerly held by failed platform ITV Digital, has signalled its willingness to find a place for Murdoch-controlled pay-TV operator BSkyB.

Freeco, the informal TV consortium – BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and S4C – is expected to bid for the licences in order to set up a free-to-air service.

Last week, Steve Morrison, ceo of leading ITV shareholder Granada Media, hinted that there may be room for BSkyB. “We are in discussions with the other free-to-air broadcasters and there may be a pay-TV operator that wants to join our consortium. So we could have a free-to-air platform with a pay element,” he said.

When asked if the pay-TV operator in question was BSkyB, he issued the clearest invitation to date: “We are open to it. It is up to them.”

However, the coalition is far from secure, with the ITV and BBC unable to agree on how many channels each would hold. A role for BSkyB could create a further rift, as the BBC does not want Sky News – which competes with its own BBC News 24 – to be included in Freeco.

BSkyB is reluctant to get too heavily involved in the service either in management or investment terms, though it is keen to have its content broadcast on the platform.

The licences are being auctioned by the Independent Television Commission. Final bids must be submitted by June 13, with a winner set to be announced on July 4,

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff