Channel 5 may delay launch

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The Independent Online
The new terrestrial television station Channel 5 announced last night that it may postpone its launch date until the middle of February or early March after the enlargement of its coverage area, writes Peter Victor.

The station had planned to start broadcasting in early January, but now needs more time to complete extra video re-tuning across Britain. The news comes after the Government's decision to grant it access to the channel 35 frequency, boosting its coverage from 70 per cent to about 85 per cent of Britain.

It means Channel 5 will need to re-tune an estimated 1.8 million more homes. The station could now spend up to pounds 120m re-tuning about 12 million videos. "We won't be making the decision for a few weeks," a spokesman said. "But we expect to announce a revised launch date. It is very likely the date will be delayed for around six weeks.

"It is because of the allocation of the new frequency. More people need to be re-tuned and it is going to take us a while to do that. It will take up to four weeks from hearing we have been given channel 35 for the various bodies, which includes the ITC and Radiocommunications Agency, to work out precise locations of the C35 frequency over the various transmitters."

The Independent Television Commission must authorise the move and amend Channel 5's operating arrangements. An ITC spokesman said: "We are not surprised by the news. Channel 5 will have to give us a formal presentation."

Channel 5 will also use the UHF channel 37 frequency in key areas of the country. Frequency 37 reaches an estimated 74 per cent of the population. A spokesman for the channel said:"Even with the delay, which is disappointing, the greater market penetration from the channel 35 frequency we should be on target for about pounds 112m in advertising revenue in the first year."