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Friday, 26 April, 2002, 05:38 GMT 06:38 UK
ITV Digital briefing for MPs
No buyer has come forward for the service
Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell is to make a statement to MPs about the ITV Digital crisis.

The ailing pay-TV network is on the verge of being broken up after court-appointed administrators ran out of money to keep the broadcaster going.

But Ms Jowell is expected to restate the government's backing for digital television, which Prime Minister Tony Blair's administration has long championed.

A spokeswoman said Ms Jowell wanted to "bring MPs up to speed on the latest situation".

Assets sell-off

Deloitte & Touche, ITV Digital's administrators, said on Thursday it was looking to break up the broadcaster and sell off assets to the highest bidders, after failing yet to find a buyer for the whole business.

Television set top boxes would be up for sale to ITV Digital subscribers.

ITV Digital's closure would represent a setback to government plans for the whole of Britain to be switched to digital television by 2010.

It could also spell financial crisis for dozens of UK football clubs in England's First, Second and Third divisions, due for a slice of TV rights money.

The Football League, which oversees the divisions, is owed 178.5m by ITV Digital in TV rights.

While the League has pledged to open a legal battle in an attempt to retrieve the cash from ITV Digital's owners, media firms Granada and Carlton, there are fears some clubs could go under before any case was settled.

Football rights

Football League officials were reluctant to comment on ITV Digital's collapse.

The rights for televising League games would revert to the clubs, who would be free to find a new buyer for the contract.

It is highly unlikely they would receive offers anywhere near as lucrative as those made by ITV Digital.

One club - Lincoln - said on Thursday afternoon that in the light of the developments they had "parted company" with their current manager to save money.

Carlton and Granada are believed to have refused to continue funding ITV Digital because of concerns over the length of time it would take to transfer its broadcasting licence to a buyer.

Free-to-air digital terrestrial channels such as BBC Choice, BBC News 24, BBC4, ITV2 and ITN News should continue to be available to ITV subscribers, even when the pay-TV service ceases.

The BBC's Rory Cellan Jones
"The business is likely to be broken up"
Shadow Media Secretary Tim Yeo
"We can't rely on just satellite or cable"
Swindon Town FC director Bob Holt
"I'm sure some names will go under"
See also:

25 Apr 02 | Football
Chairman urges solidarity
26 Apr 02 | Football
Uefa offers small change
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