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Digital deadline grows

Pubcasters now have until June 13 to submit a final bid

LONDON — The deadline for submitting bids for the broadcasting licenses of collapsed paybox ITV Digital has been extended by eight working days to give the U.K.’s terrestrials a chance to form a coalition.

Pubcasters the BBC and Channel 4 and commercial stations ITV, Channel 5 plus Welsh broadcaster S4C now have until June 13 to submit a final bid.

The BBC confirmed that the broadcasters had already held talks about forming a consortium, adding: “It was not realistic for us to reach agreement in the time available before the deadline.”

The terrestrials want the licenses to improve the quality of free-to-air channels they broadcast digitally. These include BBC1, 2 and 4, BBC News 24, BBC Choice (3), ITV1 and 2, Channel 4 and Channel 5.

Unveiling July 4

The Independent Television Commission, the U.K.’s commercial TV org, will announce the new holder of the three licenses on July 4. It will not reveal who made a bid.

The paybox, co-owned by ITV companies Carlton and Granada, closed after failing to meet its huge debts (partly incurred by expensive soccer rights) or find a buyer for the business.

Meanwhile, BBC director general Greg Dyke slammed the heads of Carlton and Granada on Monday for not taking responsibility for ITV Digital’s collapse.

He also told a group of advertisers and commercial broadcasters that there was not room for three competing pay TV systems.

Dyke said the future of digital television lay in an aerial, rather than cable or satellite dish, free-to-air service offering viewers an extra 10 to 15 channels.