British Government Urges Broadcasters to Rescue ITVd

24 April 2002

The British government is said to be urging the nation’s broadcasters to put together a rescue deal for dTV platform ITV Digital, put up for sale after failing to revise an expensive rights contract with the Football League.

Concerned that the collapse of the terrestrial digital broadcaster will jeopardise the target of analogue switch-off by 2010, government officials are thought to be actively backing proposals to set up a consortium of TV firms to come to ITVd’s aid.

However, despite support from Channel 4, the idea is not believed to have gone down well with the publicly funded BBC and NewsCorp-controlled BSkyB – the Beeb because it fears accusations of misusing public money; BSkyB due to issues of competition (it operates its own dTV service, Sky Digital).

Despite reports of several interested bidders, administrator Deloitte & Touche is expected to have difficulty selling the platform, though it will be helped by the fact that a buyer will not have to take on the crippling £178.5 million (€291.4m; $256.4m) debt to the Football League.

Intriguingly, the League itself has expressed an interest in purchasing the platform, and is seeking a broadcast partner to help form a bid. Whether it would then pay itself the money it is owed has not been revealed.

D&T is in talks with the Independent Television Commission to draw up the details of the sale. The ITC has agreed to a swift sell-off, but insists it will need time to ensure buyers are fit to hold a broadcasting licence.

Meanwhile, ITVd’s subscribers have begun to lose their digital services, with pay-per-view movie service ITV Select fading to black on Tuesday night.

Data sourced from: The Times (London); additional content by WARC staff