Carlton and Granada are considering putting up millions of pounds of extra funding to keep ITV Digital going while it is sold off.
Talks were continuing last night between the companies and the administrator, Nick Dargan of Deloitte & Touche, over how much extra money was required and how it would be used.
The Government, including Downing Street's Policy Unit, is putting pressure on Carlton and Granada to provide the money. The Government is also urging other free-to-air broadcasters, such as the BBC, to play their part in keeping digital terrestrial television on air while its future is determined.
An ITV source said: "It is in our interest to do everything we can to help the administrator."
Simply closing ITV Digital is likely to cost much more – perhaps £100m – while Carlton and Granada are being asked to put up some £10m to see it through the sale process.
The stricken pay-TV platform will be formally put up for sale for the first time today, in an "accelerated" auction which will include the service's monkey mascot, the subscribers, broadcast licences, technology, set top boxes and goodwill.
The Independent Television Commission, the regulator of commercial television, has produced a tender document, which will be available from today.
It is thought that the ITC is looking at a sales process lasting six to eight weeks – compared to six to 10 months normally taken for even a routine licence renewal. The ITC is required to approve any licence applicant.
The BBC and Sky are the obvious media players with the expertise and content to run ITV Digital but the involvement of each is problematic. The BBC is barred from using licence fee money in a commercial venture while Sky already runs the rival dominant platform. It is possible that Sky may be allowed by the regulator to be operator of the digital terrestrial platform if a venture capital house bought it.
Separately, a senior Granada manager questioned whether any successor to ITV Digital was viable. Phil Lines, controller of development for Granada, told a conference: "It is difficult to see how that platform can be made to work, especially with some of the things we have learned about the capacity of the signal."Reuse content