Farce as call centre makes bid for digital TV

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The Independent Online

The digital terrestrial broadcast licences freed up by the collapse of ITV Digital have only attracted limited interest, it emerged yesterday. As the deadline for expressions of interest passed it is understood that only half a dozen initial bids have come in. They include one from a Scottish call centre and another from the company which owns the transmitters used for broadcasting the ITV Digital channels.

The biggest surprise among the bidders is MGt, a four-year-old Scottish-based call centre operation. The company confirmed its interest saying it wanted to use the licences to launch a new digital terrestrial pay-TV operation.

The BBC confirmed it had yesterday submitted an expression of interest with the Independent Television Commission, which is seeking buyers for the licences. It is expected to bid as part of a consortium with other terrestrial broadcasters. Other bids are thought to have come in from Crown Castle and SDN.

Crown Castle is a US-based transmitter operator which saw its £225m contract with ITV Digital collapse along with the stricken broadcaster. It was only three years into a 12-year contract when ITV digital failed.

SDN is a consortium including S4C, the Welsh language broadcaster and United Business Media.

BSkyB said it had not submitted a bid. It sees its involvement with digital terrestrial television (DTT) to be one of content provision and does not need a licence to do that.

Earlier this month Greg Dyke, the BBC's director-general, said that only BSkyB could make a subscription-based DTT work. He indicated that if Sky did not become involved, the only other option was to make DTT a free-to-air service.

Bidders for the licences have until 30 May to submit more detailed funding plans on their proposals. The ITC will award the licences on 13 June.