S4C lands U.K. digital license

LONDON — The last license for digital terrestrial television in the U.K. has been awarded to S4C Digital Networks Ltd. (SDN), a company set up by the Welsh TV channel, S4C.

The license greenlights SDN to provide an information channel and an automotive channel produced by the news programming supplier ITN, an entertainment service from Turner Broadcasting, and a nature channel and a pre-school children’s channel.

The award of the license has prompted media group United News & Media to confirm that it is in discussions to acquire a 30% stake in SDN. An S4C spokesperson said that “negotiations were well advanced” and thought it likely that United would also become a programming supplier.

United owns Anglia Television and is set to acquire HTV, both ITV network companies, and both major produc-ers of documentary programming through their respective Survival and Partridge divisions.

The license entails a platform that can carry six or so digital terrestrial channels. Space had already been allocated to Britain’s newest terrestrial, Channel 5 — in which United is also a shareholder — as well as for S4C in Wales and for Gaelic programming in Scotland.

United had been poised to take a 30% share in Digital Television Network, the failed bidder for three digital plat-forms that were recently awarded to British Digital Broadcasting, which is backed by ITV companies Carlton and Granada. United is the third largest ITV company.

The backer of DTN was cable and technology group National Transcommunications Ltd. NTL will handle techni-cal services for SDN.

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