Digital TV bid may go to court

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The Independent Online
The battle to run digital terrestrial television could end up in the High Court, it emerged yesterday, after British Digital Broadcasting (BDB), the bidder which includes Carlton, Granada and BSkyB, launched a bitter assault on its rival, Digital Television Network (DTN).

BDB sources said the inclusion of United News & Media, Lord Hollick's newspapers to television group, in the DTN bid threatened to contravene Independent Television Commission rules governing changes to applications after the final deadline of 31 January. United revealed last week that it would take a 30 per cent stake in DTN if it won the digital terrestrial licence, due to be announced by the ITC next month.

A source within BDB said: "The rules are clear: you can't submit extra information after the closure of the bid, particularly when you've had time to study the other's bid."

It is thought BDB could seek a judicial review of the ITC's decision. Because United joined provisionally in the DTN consortium after the deadline it is understood to have submitted changes to its application to the ITC. They cover the United directors who would join the operation and United's shareholding.

Further disclosures are thought to include information on the political affiliations of Lord Hollick, United's chief executive and Labour peer. Lord Hollick has become a special advisor to Margaret Beckett, the President of the Board of Trade.

A spokesman for United News & Media said he was confident the amendments did not breach the ITC's rules in any way which could be deemed by the ITC to be unfair. The spokesman said: "We had to supply them with an amended version of parts of the submission, concerning what it would look like if DTN were successful in getting a licence."

However, he admitted the changes were sensitive.

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