Fresh bids for Channel 5 to be sought: ITC will re-advertise licence and service could be on air by 1996

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The Independent Online
THE Independent Television Commission has decided to re- advertise a licence for Channel 5, the new quasi-terrestrial TV channel that could be on air by 1996. The decision was greeted enthusiastically by groups planning to compete for the licence.

The attraction is the access it gives to the rich advertising markets of London and the Midlands. The ITC said 70 per cent of the UK population might eventually be reached by the new station.

However, the new frequency plan requires clearance from the Radio Communications Agency (a part of the Department of Trade and Industry) which must negotiate clearances with a number of other European governments.

Dr Geoff Brownlee, spokesman for Yorkshire Tyne Tees said: 'We definitely have a strong interest. We have been talking to potential UK and US partners. We have an awful lot to offer in terms of programmes and libraries, we want to lead a consortium'.

The MAI/Pearson/Time Warner consortium formed to bid for the licence said it was pleased with the potential new scope for the channel. Mirror Group, (which owns a stake in the Independent) also indicated interest, as did other companies, including Virgin and Canwest Global Communications.

The invitation to apply for the licence, to be awarded by competitive tender as with the ITV Channel 3 franchises, will be issued on 1 November, with a closing date six months later. The announcement of the winner will be made in autumn next year.

The new Channel 5 proposal still excludes most of the south coast, running from Kent through Hampshire, Dorset and Devon, and most of East Anglia. It was originally advertised by the ITC in 1992, but an application led by Thames Television, which had lost its ITV franchise, failed. At that point the cost of retuning video recorders in millions of homes, one of the technical stumbling blocks, was estimated at pounds 150m.

The licence would be for 10 years and includes a requirement that a sufficient amount of time is given to high quality news, current affairs, other programmes of high quality, and religious and children's programmes.

The successful applicant also has to produce a business plan catering for the retuning of video and other equipment.