ITC slated over C5 launch ‘fudge’

The Independent Television Com-mission is fighting off criticism that it has relaxed Channel 5’s retuning targets, to avoid an embarrassing second delay to the station’s launch.

The ITC last Friday gave C5 the all-clear to begin transmission on March 30, stating the channel had satisfied the condition that 90 per cent of those affected by interfer-ence had been retuned before launch. Up to 11 million households were originally estimated to be subject to possible interference from the new station.

But a spokesman for C5 says 9 million homes have received home visits by retuners – well short of the 9.6 million figure originally touted as guaranteeing the 90 per cent retuning target. Other sources suggest the figure is closer to 8 million.

Though the ITC denies that it has relaxed retuning targets to avoid a second delay, it claims C5’s programme of test transmissions, aimed at identifying remaining homes affected by interference, has reduced the required level of home visits.

“Meeting the 90 per cent target does not mean 90 per cent of homes have to be visited,” says an ITC spokesman.

But ITV executives remain convinced that C5 has been given the go-ahead, despite falling well short of its retuning targets.

An internal memo circulated to ITV chiefs this week by consultant Jim Cavanagh insists: “There appears to be overwhelming evidence that C5 is a long way from meeting its threshold of retuning 90 per cent of all homes likely to be affected.”

The latest survey figures commiss-ioned by ITV from Continental Research suggest that 60 per cent of Londoners have had retuning visits, while 43 per cent are unaware of the station’s test broadcasts.

Cavanagh argues this research clearly demonstrates the failure of C5’s test transmissions to identify enough remaining homes affected by interference, in turn causing C5 to fall short of its launch threshold.

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