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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 1 May, 2002, 11:22 GMT 12:22 UK
Q&A: What now for ITV Digital's customers?
ITV Digital - the UK's digital terrestrial pay-TV network - is closing down, after the firm's court-appointed administrators failed to find a buyer. BBC News Online explains how subscribers will be affected.

I've got an ITV Digital set-top box - is my screen about to go blank?

You will have lost the pay-TV channels you subscribed to, such as BSkyB sport and films and music channel MTV.

But even now that your subscription channels have disappeared, your set-top box will not be completely useless.

At least for now, you will be able to use the box to access free-to-air digital channels, such as BBC Choice, BBC News 24, BBC4, ITV2 and S4C.

You will also not miss out on the end-of-season play-off games in the Football League as ITV Sport, formerly a pay-TV channel, has been re-designated as free-to-air.

The Independent Television Commission has asked ITV Digital's administrator to "make sure that information about service availability is provided to viewers on the screen".

What about the longer term outlook?

The longer term outlook for the free-to-air digital channels through ITV Digital set-top boxes is uncertain as the firm's administrators are still trying to sell the customer base and set-top boxes.

Channel 4 said its E4 and Film Four channels would be provided to ITV Digital subscribers until 24 May.

The BBC has also said it will try to buy some of ITV Digital's technical equipment, so that it can ensure uninterrupted transmissions.

If your set-top box develops a fault, it is unlikely you will get any technical support.

Already, most of ITV Digital's call centre staff have been told that they will lose their jobs.

Will I be able to keep my set-top box?

Most ITV Digital viewers do not technically 'own' their box.

Only about 200,000 of ITV Digital's 1.2 million subscribers bought their boxes outright.

The remainder were given the boxes with their subscription, meaning they effectively still belong to the company.

This means they are an asset of ITV Digital, and could be sold-off.

But recovering the boxes would be a very labour-intensive and costly process, so the chances of someone coming round to your house and demanding the box back are slim.

Will I get any money back?

ITV Digital says that any annual payments paid after 27 March are "secure" and would be paid back according to the proportion of the subscription plan used, if the company collapses.

But viewers who renewed their subscriptions before the March administration date may not get their money back.

They would be treated as if they were any other creditor of the firm, and - if ITV Digital collapsed - would be likely to get only a fraction of any money owed.

Following the collapse of a company, liquidators sell the company's assets to try and raise as much cash as possible.

But there is usually a long queue for any money, and the Consumers' Association says that customers are usually at the back of that queue.

Anyone who pays a monthly fee by direct debit should be able to cut their exposure fairly quickly, but the Consumers' Association says people should check the terms and conditions of their contract to see if they can terminate the agreement.

Will I be able to watch Nationwide League games?

You may want to inquire about buying tickets to see the league play-offs live in the stadium.

However, ITV Digital's administrators have said ITV Sport is becoming free-to-air so coverage of the games should go ahead.

The broadcasting rights cannot be transferred easily to another broadcaster - including ITV Digital's parents Granada and Carlton.

But as ITV Digital has effectively broken its contract with the Football League, the rights could be sold to another buyer.

Other broadcasters, such as Sky or the BBC, might be interested in buying the rights.

But the chances of the Football League getting anything near the amount promised to it by ITV Digital are extremely remote.

The viewing figures for the Football League matches shown throughout the season were lower than expected, and the extremely generous deal struck with ITV Digital contributed heavily to the broadcaster's downfall.

What about the European Champions League? Will I still be able to watch those games?

Yes.

The contract for European Champions League matches is held by the ITV Network, not ITV Digital which is a separate company.

This season the ITV Network have sub-licensed matches on a Tuesday night to ITV Digital - which is why you've been able to watch them on the ITV sports channel.

In the event of ITV Digital's collapse the sub-licence reverts back to the ITV Network, and then they can broadcast the matches on either ITV1 or ITV2.


If you have any more questions about the collapse of ITV Digital send them to us, using the form below, and we'll attempt to answer them.

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