Commercial Companies Ready for Legal Challenge To BBC’s Digital Expansion

13 August 2001

Plans to spend £300 million ($427m) on the expansion of digital television by the publicly-owned British Broadcasting Corporation are likely to be challenged legally if approved by the UK government.

The commercial broadcasters – among them ITV Digital and Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB – argue that public money should not be used to replicate pay-tv services. If the BBC enters an already highly competitive marketplace, some commercial channels would go the wall, they claim.

If government approval of the BBC’s plans, which include the launch of four TV services and five radio stations, is forthcoming, the commercial companies will demand evidence of a rigorous assessment. Depending on the outcome, the companies are likely to seek a judicial review.

Questions remain unanswered about target audience share and reach, the market impact of the proposals, commissioning of content, scheduling and how the budgets will be spent, reports the Financial Times. Says one opponent: "We do not see how the government can take a decision that fairly assesses the impact on the market.”

News source: Financial Times