Ministers delay decision on Channel 5

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A FINAL decision on whether to give Channel 5 the go-ahead was delayed by ministers yesterday until next month, writes Gail Counsell.

The postponement was a rebuff to Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade. At the meeting he argued for dropping C5 as it would use up frequencies needed to enable the introduction of digital television.

But other ministers, including John Major, the Prime Minister, felt they should wait until they had seen a report being prepared by the Radiocommunications Agency. It is exploring the extent to which C5 would hamper the introduction of digital.

Some ministers felt that Mr Heseltine was overstating the case for blocking C5, especially in view of the fact that the 1990 Broadcasting Act specifically provides for its introduction.

A decision will be made before the next meeting of the responsible regulator, the Independent Television Commission, on 19 May. C5, a new free national television channel, could be up and running by the end of 1995.