NEWS: DTI deal delays Channel 5 launch

Channel 5 has put back its launch date until well into the new year following a move which will extend its coverage of the country to just under 80 per cent.

Channel 5 has put back its launch date until well into the new year

following a move which will extend its coverage of the country to just

under 80 per cent.



The Department of Trade and Industry this week agreed to allow Channel 5

to use an additional frequency - channel 35 - to extend its reach across

the UK.



The extra frequency will increase Channel 5’s coverage from 70 per cent

of the UK population to 78 per cent, but the addition of new areas will

delay its launch by at least six weeks because an extra 1.8 million

homes will now need their TV equipment retuned.



David Elstein, the chief executive of Channel 5, said that the company

intends to retune the TV equipment of all homes affected by its signal

before going on air.



‘The most cost-effective and efficient way of completing the extra

retuning required by channel 35 is to run it in parallel with our

existing plan,’ Elstein said. A Channel 5 spokeswoman added: ‘If there

is a launch delay, it will be for all the right reasons.’



However, rival broadcasters have been quick to see the delay in getting

the channel on air as proof that a 1 January launch date was never

achievable. ‘The new frequencies are a welcome excuse to allow Channel 5

to put back its launch and still save face,’ one claimed.



At the same time, Elstein is in discussions with BSkyB - where he was

programme director until last month - about the possibility of

broadcasting Channel 5 via satellite. Using satellite would take Channel

5’s reach to around 85 per cent of the population. A number of cable

operators are also understood to have approached Channel 5 in the hope

of persuading it to take a cable-exclusive route in areas where it

cannot transmit its terrestrial signal.



Channel 35 was intended for use by mobile digital terrestrial

television. Now the DTI has agreed to hand the frequency over to Channel

5 for a five-year period to enhance its initial audience. After five

years, viewers who receive Channel 5 on the new frequency will have to

be moved on to an alternative means of delivery.



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