The chief executive of British broadcast group Granada Media has been spotted in talks with the insolvency expert advising the Football League (the three soccer divisions below the elite Premier League), increasing speculation that the media firm is becoming anxious at the negative publicity arising from the dispute between the two.

Granada is co-owner (with Carlton Communications) of dTV platform ITV Digital, which recently went into administration after claiming it could not afford to honour the remaining payments of £178.5 million ($256m; €291.8m) under a rights deal with the League.

The League claims that Granada and Carlton have an obligation to pay their subsidiary’s debts – a charge the media duo deny, arguing that a ‘long-form’ contract providing such guarantees was never signed.

Hence the significance of the sighting of Granada ceo Steve Morrison talking to the League’s insolvency adviser David Buchler at a football match over the weekend, when the two were observed “having intense discussions”. Until now, Granada had publicly referred the matter to Deloitte & Touche, ITV Digital’s administrator.

Granada is thought to be concerned about the damage the dispute is doing to its reputation in footballing circles. The ITV network, of which it is a leading shareholder, owns rights to Premier League highlights, World Cup matches and the European Champions League – all high-profile tournaments.

Meanwhile, the League is due today (Monday) to ask the High Court to force the release of ITV Digital documents being withheld by Deloitte & Touche.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff