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Thursday, 2 May, 2002, 14:38 GMT 15:38 UK
Top man at ITV quits
Stuart Prebble, who is resigning as ITV chief executive
The chief executive of ITV, Stuart Prebble, has resigned.

He was in overall charge of ITV Digital and had been under pressure to quit because of the collapse of the company.

This seems like an excellent moment to move on

Stuart Prebble

In a statement he said: "I came back to the ITV Network Centre a year ago to try to bring together ITV's channels and platform businesses.

"Unfortunately that role is now not available and this therefore seems like an excellent moment to move on."

Changes at top

Mr Prebble was appointed chief executive of ITV a year ago, taking responsibility for ITV Digital (formerly ONdigital), ITV Channels and ITV.Com.

Before taking that job, he was chief executive of ONdigital.

He will be replaced at ITV by Mick Desmond, managing director of Granada broadcasting and enterprises and Clive Jones, chief executive of Carlton channels.

They will become joint managing directors.

Granada and Carlton jointly own ITV Digital, and it began its descent towards liquidation when the companies withdrew their backing and money.

Next move

The Football League is owed 179m by ITV Digital as part of the deal it signed to televise games.

Many of its clubs say that without the cash they will go bust.

On Friday the Football League's three-strong commercial committee will meet to decide its next move in the attempt to get the money it is owed.

The committee's members are Birmingham City's chief executive Karen Brady, Geoffrey Richmond, chairman of Bradford, and Norwich City's Bob Cooper.

New Licence

The league has said it will relax its strict rules on insolvency for the start of next season so that cash-strapped clubs will be able to play.

The search is continuing for a buyer for the licence to broadcast digital terrestrial television in the UK.

The television regulator, the Independent Television Commission (ITC), is seeking expressions of interest within two weeks and hopes to award a new licence a month after that.

It launched the fast-track process after administrators of ITV Digital admitted defeat in attempts to sell the stricken broadcaster as a going concern.

Hundreds of thousands of ITV Digital subscribers had woken up on Wednesday to a greatly reduced service after the broadcaster's administrators took the service's pay-TV channels off air.

The firm is now heading towards liquidation, with at least 1,300 jobs expected to go.

But Football League fans have been given a reprieve and will be able to watch the current series of play-off matches, after the subscription-only ITV Sport channel was re-designated a free-to-air channel.

Still hoping for a buyer

ITV Digital's 20 or so pay-TV channels - including music channel MTV, BSkyB sports and films and Nickelodeon - went off air on Wednesday morning, after administrators of the company Deloitte & Touche said they had failed to find a buyer and fresh funding.

ITV Digital - timeline
Jan 1997: BSkyB, Carlton and Granada form British Digital Broadcasting
June 1997: BSkyB told to quit project
Aug 1998: BDB renamed ONdigital
Nov 1998: ONdigital starts broadcasting
Apr 2001: rebranded as ITV Digital
Sep 2001: Sum invested hits 788m
Feb 2002: ITV Digital shake-up revealed
Mar 2002: Administrators called in
May 2002: Pay-TV services switched off

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

In the short term, subscribers will still be able to receive 12 free-to-air digital channels, such as BBC News 24, BBC Four, BBC Choice and ITV 2 as well as the five terrestrial channels.

The longer term outlook remains uncertain, with ITV Digital's administrators still hoping to find a buyer for the company's customer base and set-top boxes.

Broadcasters wanted

The ITC has now invited other broadcasters to bid for the right to transmit digital television services that can be received through rooftop aerials.

Analysts say that the licence could be awarded to a consortium of broadcasters, instead of a single company.

But if there are no bidders for the licence, the government's long-term strategy of switching UK television broadcasting from an analogue to a digital signal would be in serious trouble.

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 television rights fees failed.

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

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones
"A failure not just of his making"
The BBC's Jake Lynch
"Mr Prebble says the job... no longer exists"
See also:

01 May 02 | Business
Race to find digital broadcaster
02 May 02 | TV and Radio
Broadcasters' doubts over digital TV
01 May 02 | TV and Radio
And the digital licence goes to...?
01 May 02 | Wales
Last day for ITV Digital staff
02 May 02 | Business
Firms fight for Monkey's business
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