YTT talks digital with Canal Plus

ITV company Yorkshire-Tyne Tees has held informal talks with French satellite broadcaster Canal Plus about developing a digital service to compete with Rupert Murdoch's pay-TV system.

Any deal arising from the talks, which YTT chairman Ward Thomas characterised as "preliminary", might allow Britain's commercial television broadcasters to distributed digital services without using "conditional access" technology controlled by Mr Murdoch's News Corp. News Corp owns 40 per cent of the UK's successful analogue cable and satellite pay-TV broadcaster BSkyB. Mr Thomas cautioned, however, that digital TV was still a long way off.

YTT's chief executive-designate, Bruce Gyngell, who is former head of London Weekend Television, added: "All the takeovers and mergers in old- fashioned analogue mean you have to ask yourself just how confident people are that digital is going to sweep the world."

Mr Thomas said the company's cash balance, about pounds 30m, was more likely to be used to develop new programming and buy shares in ITN, in which Granada and Carlton hold 36 per cent each. The two have been told by the Independent Television Commission to cut their stakes to 20 per cent each by the end of the year.

The YTT executives' remarks followed the publication last month of the Government's White Paper on digital TV, which heralds the creation of up to 18 new channels, with guaranteed capacity for the existing terrestrial broadcasters. The Government said companies could bid for the right to run "multiplex" providers of digital programming. Mr Thomas said yesterday YTT was likely to bid for a multiplex licence, in partnership with other companies.

BSkyB intends to launch a digital satellite service within a year to 18 months, which some industry observers believe might pre-empt the market for digital terrestrial TV.

YTT's six-month figures yesterday showed pre-tax profits rose to pounds 7.4m from pounds 300,000 last year, when YTT suffered a catastrophic overselling of advertising time, precipitating expensive restructuring and refunds. The interim dividend is 3.7p, up from a nominal 0.1p.

Profitability was still hampered by the company's huge licence fee to the Treasury - the result of what it now admits was an "overbid" at the time of the last licence round in 1992. In the six month period, YTT paid pounds 32m for the Tyne Tees and Yorkshire licences.

Mr Gyngell said the Government's two-licence limit on ITV franchises was "absolutely ludicrous".

YTT has formally advised the Government that a "share of audience" limit made more sense, and suggested a 25 per cent ceiling. That would allow Granada, which now holds 14 per cent of YTT in addition to its two ITV licences for the North and London weekend, to make a bid for the entire company.

Speculation that such a bid might be allowed following a change in policy has helped underpin YTT's rapid rise on the stock market, from 366p at the beginning of the year to 609p yesterday.

Mr Thomas denied, however, that talks had been held between Granada and YTT about an eventual merger, despite speculation in the weekend press.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
A poster by Durham Constabulary
news
Arts and Entertainment
books New York Times slammed over summer reading list
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Neil Pavier: Management Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you looking for your next opportunity for ...

Sheridan Maine: Commercial Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ACA/ACCA/ACMA qua...

Laura Norton: Project Accountant

£50,000 - £60,000: Laura Norton: Are you looking for an opportunity within a w...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine