UK Press in Speculative Spasms Over ITVd Soccer Stalemate

26 March 2002

The soccer rights stalemate between ITV Digital, the lossmaking digital TV platform owned by ITV’s controlling twosome (Granada Media and Carlton Communications) and the UK Football League has spurred the nation’s press into a frenzy of speculation as to the next step.

No fewer than four different angles are gleefully pursued today by Grub Street’s finest …

The plunge in the respective share prices of Carlton and Granada. According to BrandRepublic, rumours that the ITV duo could be forced to pay £500 million ($712.34m; €815.28m) to the league if they carry out their threat to shutter ITVd, led to slumps of 7.2% and 6.81% in their respective share prices. However, the pair deny that they have any legal liability.

A threatened boycott by soccer fans of the duo’s TV soaps is on the cards, according to The Independent, which reports that Football League chairman Keith Harris has urged footie fanatics to switch off soaps such as Coronation Street and Emmerdale in protest at ITVd’s attempt to renegotiate the fees it pays for broadcasting fixtures.

The apparent ignoring by Carlton/Granada of the League’s letter rejecting ITVd’s drastically reduced offer. The Times reports that the soccer body, famed for its civility in matters of correspondence and all else, is surprised that ITVd has failed to respond as yet to its letter of rejection mailed five days ago. “A reply is customary,” ruefully complained the upholders of national etiquette

Government prevarication over the date by which the nation’s analogue TV transmissions will be switched off. The Guardian headlined an attack on the government for its alleged digital dithering while ITVd burns. Addressing the government minister concerned, Tory shadow secretary for culture media and sport Tim Yeo - who recognises a rare goal-scoring opportunity when he sees one - rhetorically enquired: “Do you understand the survival of ITV Digital has been made much more difficult by your failure to set a clear timetable for digital switch over, your failure to turn up the digital signal and the failure to modernise the media ownership rules?”

Meantime, there is no hard news to report but acres of newsprint to fill.

Data sourced from various publications as above; additional content by WARC staff