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Jowell to address Commons on ITV Digital

LONDON - Tessa Jowell, the secretary of state for culture, media and sport, is to address the House of Commons later this morning on the subject of ITV Digital.

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Jowell has so far washed her hands of responsibility for ITV Digital and refused to get involved in negotiations between it and the Football League.

Yesterday, the Independent Television Commission effectively revoked ITV Digital's pay-TV licence to broadcast channels such as Sky One, E4 and a host of subscription channels, which will leave ITV Digital viewers with just a handful of BBC and ITV channels.

In a statement, the ITC said it had informed Deloitte & Touche, the ITV Digital administrator, that when pay services cease to be broadcast and the business no longer fulfils the terms of its licences it will revoke the licences and proceed to an accelerated re-tender.

The government's neutral stance to ITV Digital's problems since it launched in 1998 has received far-reaching criticisms from broadcasters and MPs alike.

It has been long thought that it is in the government's best interest to intervene. There have been numerous calls for its intervention during the current crisis and also earlier in the service's life when there were calls to strengthen ITV Digital's signal, which was having problems transmitting to some parts of the UK.

Those calling for intervention have argued that it is in the interests of the government's planned switch-off of the digital signal by 2010.

It has not been confirmed yet what time Jowell will address the Commons today but it is expected to be at 11am.

Earlier this week, the government put pressure on Carlton Communications and Granada and called on them to continue funding ITV Digital until a buyer could be found, which could cost the ITV companies millions of pounds. However, it was too little and too late to save ITV Digital.

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