The Digital Stakeholders Group, a key element of the British government’s digital TV action plan, is expected to unveil on Friday the identity of its first chairman.

Word around the political parish pump is that the part-time job is lined up for prime ministerial crony Barry Cox, deputy chairman of Channel 4 , quondam neighbour and friend of Tony Blair for over twenty years. Like other recent Quango [quasi non-governmental organisation] sinecures, it is set to be filled by a skilled job-juggler whose working day clearly extends beyond twenty-four hours.

Cox (59), a former World in Action producer at London Weekend Television before its ingestion by Granada, has for the past three years served as chairman of the digital terrestrial television advisory board. He will chair the new body on a part-time basis while continuing in his present role at Channel 4. He is also a strategic adviser and key fundraiser for Labour

The appointment, which is expected to trigger the usual howls of “cronyism” from political opponents, will be formally ratified at a Department of Trade and Industry meeting on Friday. It must then be endorsed by members of the DSG, among them senior executives of terrestrial, digital and satellite broadcasters plus consumer groups and equipment manufacturers.

The DSG is charged with beefing-up and helping to coordinate the government’s drive to persuade UK citizens to switch from analogue to digital TV between 2006 and 2010. This will enable a future administration to discontinue analogue TV transmissions and re-sell the lucrative spectrum to telecoms and other users.

News source: Financial Times