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Thursday, 4 July, 2002, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
Box confusion persists
Digital set-top box
Set-top boxes are likely to become even more common
The BBC's digital terrestrial bid has exposed the uncertainty still surrounding the fate of more than one million set-top boxes left over from the collapsed ITV Digital.

With a mere 200,000 of the boxes owned outright by subscribers, the remaining one million are ITV Digital assets which could still technically be sold off by administrators Deloitte and Touche.

But it has been widely speculated since ITV Digital started to totter that there would be no way to reclaim the boxes.


We are not stepping in to save ITV Digital

BBC
The administrators are left with the option of trying to sell them to a third party. They maintain they have been in negotiations with a number of parties.

But any company purchasing the boxes would face the same problem of how to exploit them.

The boxes will be able to pick up the new BBC digital services, so customers are likely to want to hold onto them.

And the costs involved in sending teams around to houses to collect them are thought to be prohibitive.

Deloitte and Touche say they may enter negotiations with the BBC, but it is not clear why the corporation would want or need to buy the boxes.

The BBC says it is "not stepping into the ITV Digital breach" and will take no responsibility for maintaining or repairing the boxes whatever happens.

Key audience

A spokesman said: "We are putting in a new service.

"Existing subscribers should contact the company who made those boxes.

"We are not stepping in to save ITV Digital."

He said although the ITV Digital box-holders were a key part of the audience for the new network, the BBC was also targeting the millions who currently have no multi-channel television.

The BBC will not be making or marketing the boxes themselves.

Instead it will be concentrating its efforts on a massive promotional drive for the channels.

Pace and Nokia are both currently selling stand-alone boxes which can be used to pick up the new BBC digital service.


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