Channel 5 bidders face their public

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The Independent Online
Bidders for the licence to run Britain's fifth terrestrial TV channel have been asked to comment on issues raised by a public consultation process launched earlier this summer.

According to sources close to the bidders, the Independent Television Commission has sent a resume of concerns arising from the consultation, and asked for replies by the end of the week.

An ITC spokeswoman refused to comment directly on the matter, but an insider at Virgin TV, one of the four groups bidding for Channel 5, said: "We have not received actual correspondence from the public, but rather a summary of the issues raised." The Virgin TV consortium includes Virgin Group, Associated Newspapers and the electronics company Philips.

It is believed the comments range from concerns about the quality of programming and the need for regional content to questions about a pounds 100m- plus retuning exercise to be undertaken by the winning bidder.

Police officers were particularly interested in the plan to retune video recorders to receive the Channel 5 signal. New Century Television, Channel 5 Broadcasting and UKTV intend to visit every home, raising concerns that criminals might pose as retuners to gain entry.

In addition to Virgin TV, UKTV also said it had received selected comments. UKTV groups the Canadian broadcaster CanWest, the Australian broadcaster Channel 10 and the UK independent producer and cable broadcaster SelecTV.

Channel 5 Broadcasting (media conglomerate Pearson and financial services and media company MAI) did not receive comments generated by the consultation, according to its chairman, John Hambley.

However, the ITC spokeswoman said, "bidders wouldn't necessarily know whether the requests for clarification come from the public or the ITC."