BBC refuses to save ITV Digital

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The Independent Online

ITV Digital looked doomed last night after the BBC made it clear that it would not bail out the troubled company.

Senior sources confirmed there had been two meetings this week between Greg Dyke, the BBC director general, and Tessa Jowell, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, but discussions focused on making sure screens did not go blank rather than wider action by the corporation to rescue the ailing firm.

Ms Jowell also insisted that she would not help any football clubs threatened by ITV Digital's failure because players' wages were partly to blame.

Industry sources claimed the Government was putting pressure on the BBC and the Football League to rescue the company by entering into a digital television partnership with ITV Digital because its collapse would blow a hole in Labour's media strategy.

It is understood that ministers at the Department for Culture have become increasingly frustrated at the BBC's "go it alone" attitude to digital television. This has added to the problems of ITV Digital, which was put into the hands of administrators on Wednesday.

Tim Yeo, the shadow Culture Secretary, warned last night that any contacts between the BBC and the Government would have to be open and transparent given the past links with Labour of Mr Dyke and Gavyn Davies, the BBC chairman.

ITV Digital's predicament has also put in jeopardy the Government's desire to have a digital terrestrial pay-TV alternative to rival Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB satellite service.

Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs have tabled an emergency Commons motion saying that Granada and Carlton have a "legal and moral obligation" to fund ITV Digital and "expressing deep alarm" at the prospect of 20 clubs folding. But Ms Jowell said "unsustainable" wages were to blame for the club's problems.

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