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26/04/2002

ITV Digital sales to proceed as licence put to tender

The UK TV regulator, the Independent Television Commission (ITC), has ruled that it has not been able to secure additional funding for ITV Digital on terms that would enable it to commit to a long-term sale.
ITV Digital now faces being broken up after its administrators, Deloitte & Touche, also announced that they had failed to sell the debt-ridden company.
The ITC have now said that they will revoke the network's licence and offer it for tender. However, few people see signs of any buyers.
Speaking about ITV Digital in the Metro newspaper, Phil Lines, Controller of Development at Granada Sport said: "I've had the privilege of seeing the business model, and its difficult to see how the platform can be made to work."
However, Nick Dargan, the administrator from Deloitte & Touche, is believed to have received at least six approaches for ITV Digital's assets - but not the company as a whole.
The prospects of a single buyer have also receded further with Deloitte & Touche claims that an additional £100 million (€162 million) would be needed by ITV Digital to break even, on top of the £900 million (€1,457 million) already spent acquiring its 1.26 million customers and the additional £300 million (€486 million) due to be spent in the original Carlton Communications and Granada business plan.
The accelerated sales process is expected to last six to eight weeks - compared to the six to 10 months normally taken for even a routine licence renewal. The ITC is required to approve any licence applicant.
ITV Digital's owners, media groups, Carlton and Granada, are believed to have refused to continue funding ITV Digital because of concerns over the length of time it would take to transfer its broadcasting license to a buyer.
Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell is set to make a statement to MPs about the ITV Digital crisis and is expected to restate the government's backing for digital television, which Prime Minister, Tony Blair's administration has long championed.
ITV Digital's closure would represent a set-back in the government's plans for the whole of Britain to be switched to digital television by 2010.
Free-to-air digital terrestrial channels such as BBC Choice, BBC News 24 and ITV2 will continue to be available to ITV Digital subscribers, but paid-for services such as Sky Sports and ITV movie channels will not. Television set top boxes would also be up for sale to ITV Digital subscribers.
(KMcA)
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