Prebble slams Govt over digital TV

ITV's chief executive, Stuart Prebble, is demanding that the

Government should take a more proactive stance in leading the switchover

to digital TV while accusing the BBC of using licence fee money to

promote and develop enhanced sports services only available to satellite


Prebble, who was speaking at the Annual Goodman Derrick Lecture on

Tuesday night, urged the Government to run a public information campaign

about the digital switchover on TV. He said a public date for switchover

needed to be set to ensure that the TV industry takes action while

consumers are aware of the impending change.

He said the Government should support proposals that within the European

Union all wide-screen TVs sold after a particular date should include a

digital tuner, and he said it should lobby Brussels to reduce VAT on

digital TVs in order to make them more affordable to consumers. He also

suggested that a "digital champion" should be appointed to drive the

plans for digital TV forward.

Prebble called for all public service broadcasters to support the

digital television platform. "Firstly, they own their own bandwidth.

Secondly, they have control over the way they present themselves to the

public, and thirdly it's the only alternative to being distributed

courtesy of Rupert Murdoch," he said.

Prebble did not mince his words about the BBC's stance in the digital

marketplace, accusing it of not providing platform neutrality and saying

it was frittering away licence fee money. He said: "The constant

bombardment on BBC1 and BBC2 of trailers promoting the BBC's Wimbledon

enhanced service on satellite provided an unfair commercial advantage to

BSkyB's already dominant platform and should be prevented. This is a

totally inappropriate way to spend the additional licence fee given to

the BBC to fund its digital services, and paid by all."