Buyers set for pubcaster's transmission facils

LONDON – The British Broadcasting Corp. has announced the “preferred bidders” for the privatization of its Home Service Transmission and World Service Transmission companies, the pubcaster’s national television and radio broadcasting infrastructure and its international radio broadcasting infrastructure.

A consortium led by U.S. communications company Castle Tower Corp., and including France Telecom subsid TeleDiffusion, is set to acquire HST by the end of January. Merlin Communications Intl., a small company set up by World Service management and staff, is poised to take over WST, but a time frame was not given.

No financial details have been released, but it is thought that the value of HST is approximately $355 million, WST is valued at between $35 million and $45 million. A BBC source indicated that the two preferred bids reflected these valuations.

The HST assets include a 10-year contract for the analog broadcast of the BBC1 and BBC2 TV channels as well as ownership of the BBC’s transmission headquarters in Warwick, central England, and about 740 transmitter sites. WST assets include a 10-year contract to broadcast BBC radio worldwide and access to BBC facilities.

BBC deputy director-general Robert Phillis said: “Our stated criteria were to select a preferred bidder in the best interests of the BBC, its license payers and staff. … The preferred bidders have satisfied all our requirements for both businesses including pension and other employment considerations.”

The decision to privatize the companies was taken by the British government in November 1995. Proceeds from the sale of WST will revert to the government, while the money raised from the sale of HST will go toward financing the BBC’s digital plans.

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