ITV Chief Demands Government Promote Switch to Digital TV, Slams BBC

21 June 2001

Stuart Prebble, chief executive of ITV, Britain’s leading commercial television network, urged public service broadcasters across Europe to actively support the digital television platform as “the only alternative to being distributed by Rupert Murdoch”.

Delivering the annual Goodman Derrick Lecture in London Tuesday evening, Prebble argued that Europe’s public broadcasting sector is well placed to urge consumers to switch to the new technology: “Firstly, they own their own bandwidth, secondly they have control of the way they present themselves to the public.” The third reason for action, he warned, was the increasing dominance of Murdoch media.

The ITV boss, in no mood to pull his punches, demanded that the UK government name a date for the switch-off of the analogue TV service and run a public information campaign promoting dTV.

He also urged ministers to lobby the European Commission to reduce value added tax on dTV receivers, thus making the technology more affordable The government, he said, should appoint a ‘digital champion’ to push through these measures.

Prebble then turned his fire on ITV’s biggest rival for audience share. The publicly-owned BBC did not, he accused, provide platform neutrality and was wasting licence-payers money with “the constant bombardment on BBC1 and BBC2 of trailers promoting the BBC's Wimbledon enhanced service on satellite.”

This, continued Prebble, “provided an unfair commercial advantage to [Murdoch-controlled] BSkyB's already dominant platform and should be prevented. It is a totally inappropriate way to spend the additional licence fee, given to the BBC to fund its digital services, and paid by all.”

Although the government has not said when it will withdraw the present analogue TV bandwidths, this is expected to be between 2006-2010. Researchers predict that on current levels of conversion to dTV, around 30% of the UK populace will not have made the changeover by these dates.

News source: CampaignLive (UK)