ITV could buy DTT capacity without PSB obligations

ITV executive chairman Michael Grade has set out the options available to the UK commercial broadcaster if it chooses to revoke its licence as a public service broadcaster.

In a speech to the Royal Television Society, Grade described what he sees as tough choices for ITV. “If we choose to operate without PSB status, ITV could buy its existing DTT spectrum at the market rate – with the proceeds possibly available to other PSB broadcasters,” he said. “Alternatively we could simply buy commercial DTT capacity in the market. ITV would enjoy a unified brand, with the widest UK coverage through DTT and other platforms. there would be no regulatory prescription – the lightest touch. Of course without a PSB licence there could be no guarantee of any particular type or level of programme provision.”

Grade was speaking in response to Ofcom’s Phase 2 report on public service broadcasting. He said ITV faced a choice of providing guaranteed levels of UK programming alongside national and international news in return for benefits as a PSB. Alternatively it could operate as a purely commercial brand.

Stressing that he was not seeking any public subsidy, Grade said it was important for ITV to have a national brand to compete against the BBC and Sky, a reference to the independently-owned Channel 3 licence holders serving Scotland and Northern Ireland not held by ITV plc.