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Thursday, 25 April, 2002, 16:13 GMT 17:13 UK
BBC reassures digital viewers
ITV Digital
ITV Digital is currently up for sale
The BBC has dismissed speculation that its digital channels could lose one million viewers if ITV Digital is taken off air.

BSkyB's ex-head of programmes, David Elstein, said free-to-air channels may not survive on digital terrestrial TV if ITV Digital was closed, according to a report.

Ferne Cotton
Ferne Cotton, one of the faces of the new CBBC digital channel
He said there needed to be some pay-TV services to make the platform viable, according to the Media Guardian website.

But the BBC said its channels would be available no matter what the fate of ITV Digital.

"We are, as a matter of urgency, negotiating with the administrator, to ensure full access to all the BBC's free-to-view channels continues," it said.

"The BBC hopes the ITC and the government will be able to resolve its long term future, in the public interest, as soon as possible."

The company is now to be broken up after administrators failed to find a buyer.

BBC Four
BBC Four has also been vying for viewers
The BBC has invested millions of pounds in new digital channels like BBC Four and children's services CBeebies and CBBC, believing digital to be the future of broadcasting.

Existing channels such as BBC One and BBC Two are also available through ITV Digital.

Mr Elstein said it would not be a foregone conclusion that these channels would still be available on digital terrestrial TV if ITV Digital was closed.

"It isn't as easy as just saying 'bye bye ITV Digital, hello free to air'," he said, according to the report.

"There is no business in digital terrestrial pay TV and, without that business, I don't believe a free to air digital terrestrial platform can survive."

But in a statement, the BBC told viewers its digital terrestrial signals would not be switched off.

ITV Digital's pay-per-view movies have been switched off
ITV Digital's pay-per-view movies have been switched off
"We can reassure our audiences that the BBC's free-to-view digital services will be available to everyone with an ITV Digital box, whatever happens to ITV Digital," it said.

ITV Digital's new owners could also demand the return of one million ITV Digital set-top receivers from subscribers, Media Guardian said.

Some 1.2 million people signed up for ITV Digital - but only 200,000 of those bought the set-top boxes outright, according to the report.

See also:

09 Apr 02 | TV and Radio
Picking up ITV Digital's pieces
29 Mar 02 | TV and Radio
Set-top box offers low-cost digital
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