Dyke slams Carlton and Granada over ITV Digital fiasco

LONDON - BBC director-general Greg Dyke has laid into his commercial rivals Carlton Communications and Granada about their failure to act over the collapse of ITV Digital.

There is no love lost between Dyke and Granada. As the former managing director of the London weekend ITV franchise LWT, he failed in his bid to fend off a hostile Granada takeover bid in 1994.

The LWT chief executive at the time was Sir Christopher Bland, who last year as outgoing BBC chairman helped secure Dyke the top job at the BBC.

Dyke told the audience that Granada should not take all the blame for what happened to ITV Digital -- just half of it.

"We are living in funny times. In the old days, if they lost an awful lot of their shareholders' money, generals fell on their swords. These days it's much more common for the generals to award themselves more share options while thrusting their swords into trusted lieutenants," he said.

His remarks were seen as referring to ITV Digital chief executive Stuart Prebble, who resigned following the collapse of the service while Granada chief executive Charles Allen escaped unscathed.

He made his remarks at an Advertising Association lunch yesterday, where he revealed more details of the BBC's plans to replace ITV Digital after the service went into administration last month.

He used his remarks to distance the BBC from any pay-TV digital move. He said the downfall of ITV Digital showed clearly that the future of terrestrial digital television was in offering a free-to-air service rather than a pay one.

On Friday, the BBC announced it had made a submission to the Independent Television Commission expressing an interest in the three digital terrestrial multiplex licences formerly owned by ITV Digital. In a statement, the corporation said: "This is not a bid but a holding position."

Dyke argued that there was no room in the UK for three digital pay-TV platforms. He said nowhere in the world had three competing pay-TV services survived.

The BBC is leading a consortium of broadcasters comprising ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and S4C Digital Network, which already holds a digital terrestrial spectrum licence.

So far, the five broadcasters have put in separate expressions of interest to the ITC because they have failed to agree on a proposal.

However, it is believed the BBC would like to see a service offering viewers an extra 10 to 15 channels through a receiver costing £99.

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