A campaign has been launched by thirty-five members of Parliament from the governing Labour Party to ensure broadcasts by commercial network ITV are carried on digital satellite by Christmas.

The network, including Britain’s most popular channel ITV1, is not carried by satellite operator BSkyB, the leading digital provider.

The MPs have signed an ‘early day motion’ calling on ITV and BSkyB to forge a deal, suggesting that forthcoming communications regulator Ofcomshould intervene “if no progress has been made by November 1 to ensure ITV is available on digital satellite by Christmas this year.”

Sponsored by Chris Bryant, MP for Rhondda and previously head of European affairs at the BBC, the motion’s signatories include Andy Burnham and James Purnell, one-time special advisers to (respectively) the department of culture and the prime minister.

ITV, which has seen its audience share eroded among Sky subscribers (who currently have to switch back to analogue broadcasts to watch ITV1), unsurprisingly welcomed the move.

“We have been trying to reach agreement with BSkyB to ensure that satellite customers can watch ITV through their digital satellite set-top box for several months,” said a spokesman. “The failure so far to reach a deal highlights the need for the government to ensure that its forthcoming communications bill extends to satellite the ‘must carry’ requirements that already apply to cable and, effectively, digital terrestrial.”

ITV last month unveiled plans to launch on digital satellite independent of Sky [WAMN: 18-Sep-01].

News source: MediaGuardian.co.uk