BDB launch date in doubt as Grabiner move is delayed

British Digital Broadcasting yesterday confirmed that it had poached Stephen Grabiner, currently in charge of United News & Media's national and regional newspapers, to be its chief executive. But the digital broadcaster's planned autumn launch looked increasingly unattainable when United declared that Mr Grabiner would not be released from his existing job until January 1999. Peter Thal Larsen reports.

Last night, a fully-fledged tug of war had broken out between BDB and United News over Mr Grabiner's services. After BDB had confirmed the appointment, United News announced that Mr Grabiner would be staying on for a year to help revitalise the Express titles and the group's advertising periodicals. Lord Stevens, chairman of United News, said: "We are pleased that he will remain with us to see through the next phase in the investment programme at the Express."

However, Mr Grabiner, who has only been at United News for 18 months, was less emphatic. "I am contractually obliged to work out my 12-month contract," he said.

BDB would not comment, but industry sources said the broadcaster was confident that Mr Grabiner would be released from his contract early. This may involve BDB paying United News compensation in return for allowing him to go. However, no negotiations are currently taking place between the two companies.

The view that United News might be willing to let Mr Grabiner go early was reinforced when it promoted two employees to be managing director and deputy managing director of the Express. However, a United News spokesman said the appointments were unrelated to Mr Grabiner's departure.

Industry analysts said that a delay in Mr Grabiner's arrival at BDB would scupper any remaining hopes the broadcaster had of meeting its October launch target date. "I would say the obstacles they face are probably insurmountable," said one leading expert.

BDB already faces a huge challenge in ordering sufficient volumes of the set top boxes needed to decode the digital signal, and will have to retune some older television sets which face interference from the digital signal.

But Mr Grabiner's presence is seen as crucial to the success of the marketing campaign which will precede BDB's launch. Although he has no experience of television - his previous job was as managing director of the Telegraph newspaper titles - Mr Grabiner's flair for marketing is believed to have been a key factor in his appointment.

Missing its autumn launch would be a disaster for BDB, since it would not give the broadcaster a chance to build up its profile in time for the key Christmas selling period. That would give BSkyB, which is planning to launch its digital satellite service in June, a clear run at the market for new subscribers.

However, Mr Grabiner said that BDB had already achieved a great deal. "I'm surprised how far they have got on the infrastructure and technology," he said. "It's not as if I'll be starting from scratch.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed