State broadcaster BBC, which has frequently been criticised for its costly embrace of digital services, has won the licence to run channels on the UK's collapsed ITV Digital platform.
The award, made by the Independent Television Commission today (July 4), is said to give the digital terrestrial (DTT) platform the best possible chance of recovering lost viewers and credibility. Critical in the choice of the award of the "B" multiplex was the BBC's decision to make the services free-to-view and its ability to start broadcasts within a matter of a few months.
The other victors were transmission business Crown Castle, which won multiplexes "C" and "D", and BSkyB which is disbarred from operating a DTT multiplex, but will supply three channels to the "C" multiplex. BskyB, which operates the UK's leading satellite TV services, is also a partner in the BBC-Crown Castle joint venture establishing ServicesCo, a company that will promote DTT as a whole. The BBC is expected to inject some $31m (£20m) into a marketing campaign to win over the British public to DTT, which can be received over-the-air without cable connections or special satellite aerials once a decoder has been obtained.
"The commission believes that the BBC/Crown Castle application is the most likely to ensure the viability of digital terrestrial television. It will target those viewers who have not been so far attracted by digital TV and will help facilitate the move towards digital switchover," said Sir Robin Biggam, the chairman of the ITC.
ITV Digital (formerly ONdigital) collapsed earlier this year when its two principal owners Carlton Communications and Granada allowed it to slide into bankruptcy. They are estimated to have lost over $1.25bn (£750m) in the venture.