BDB faces pounds 20m setback to retune for digital TV

British Digital Broadcasting, the group which won the right to broadcast digital terrestrial television, will have to spend up to pounds 20m retuning television sets, according to sources close to the company.

BDB has earmarked around pounds 20m to retune television sets in certain areas where digital transmission would interfere with the analogue signal.

The group, which is owned by Carlton Communications and Granada Group, disclosed in its application for the licences that some retuning would be required before the service got off the ground. A spokesman for BDB yesterday played down the significance of the cost involved, saying it was a drop in the ocean compared to the pounds 150m retuning budget set aside by Channel 5 when it launched earlier this year.

He said: "It's a minor problem in a very small number of households." An industry source connected with the digital application process said the number of homes affected was in the "low hundreds of thousands".

Channel 5's retuning of 10 million video recorders was beset by technical hitches and cost almost pounds 100m more than originally estimated.

The expense of retuning is a further setback for BDB, which has already faced problems from the competition authorities. BSkyB was forced to drop its 33 per cent stake in the venture before it was awarded the licences after concerns over the satellite broadcaster's monopolistic position. The European Commission has now delayed the award of the licences to the group after a complaint from the rival bidder, Digital Television Network.

A spokesman for the Independent Television Commission said last night: "There's going to be some retuning, but we're not talking about anything on the scale of the Channel 5 retuning process. Digital terrestrial television is not going to cause heavy interference with VCRs or satellite."