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Wednesday, 1 May, 2002, 06:01 GMT 07:01 UK
ITV Digital switches off
ITV Digital logo
The collapse threatens at least 1,300 jobs
Hundreds of thousands of ITV Digital subscribers woke up to a seriously reduced service as the broadcaster's administrators took the channels off air at 0700 UK time (0600 GMT).

The firm is now heading towards liquidation.

Unfortunately there is no appetite in the market for a preservation of the business as a going concern

Deloitte & Touche
At least 1,300 jobs are at risk at the stricken company.

"People are shell shocked, hurt and devastated," said a representative for the workers, Jim Band.

ITV Digital's 20 or so pay-TV channels - including MTV and UK Gold - went off air.

ITV Digital customers will see an on-screen message advising them of the latest situation and providing a contact number for further information.

Subscribers will still - for the short-term at least - be able to receive 12 free-to-air digital channels, such as BBC 24, BBC Four, BBC Choice and ITV 2.

Play-offs safe

Good news for customers is that ITV Sport, one of the pay channels, has been re-designated a free-to-air channel, ensuring that Football League play-offs will be screened as planned this weekend and throughout the season.

This is set to make the matches available to a wider audience.

ITV Digital's cripplingly expensive 315m broadcast deal with the league was the catalyst for the company's downfall.

The broadcaster went into administration in March after attempts to negotiate lower transmission fees failed.

It still owes the league 178.5m on the three-year contract to show its games.

Call centre cull

About 225 staff at ITV Digital's London headquarters, including the senior management team, lost their jobs on Tuesday.

About 900 call centre workers, contracted to the company through employment firm Manpower, at Pembroke Dock in Wales are also likely to be laid off.

And 500 staff at the company's Plymouth call centre are also facing the axe.

The administrators Deloitte & Touche decided to begin the shutdown after failing to find a buyer for the company.

The firm's broadcast licence is being handed back to the Independent Television Commission (ITC), the industry regulator.

The ITC had hoped Deloitte & Touche would sell ITV Digital as a going concern, but the administrators said there was "no appetite" in the market for such a sale.

Nor has it found a buyer for any parts of ITV Digital's assets, while "strenuous efforts" to cut costs have failed.

Broadcaster wanted

The ITC is expected to invite other broadcasters to bid for the right to transmit digital television services that can be received through rooftop aerials.

The commission hopes to find a new broadcaster within six weeks.

Applicants will have two weeks to express an interest, and a further two weeks to submit their application, leaving another 14 days for the ITC to award the licence.

If this was to fail, the long-term strategy of switching UK television broadcasting from an analogue to a digital signal would be in serious trouble.

The BBC's Torin Douglas
"Some subscribers may now switch to the satellite or cable companies"
The BBC's Business Editor Jeff Randall
"We are in uncharted water"
Media strategy consultant Andy Anson
"There has to be at some point a free-to-air solution"

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Football feels pinch
See also:

01 May 02 | Wales
30 Apr 02 | Wales
30 Apr 02 | Wales
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