ITV faces fines if it returns PSB licences

ITV will face a series of fines if it presses ahead with its threat to hand back its public service broadcasting (PSB) licences. Michael Grade, ITV executive chairman (pictured), made the comments in a recent speech.

It is understood that the broadcaster would be fined 7% of its annual net advertising revenue plus other penalties if it returns the licences to Ofcom. ITV’s net advertising revenue was £1.22bn in 2007.

The broadcaster would be fined under Section 42 of the 1990 Broadcasting Act, which says that PSB broadcasters will face penalties if they do not meet the terms of their contracts.

Ofcom is understood to be talks with ITV, and the three non-ITV licence holders, UTV, STV and Channel Television, over the future of the network. The regulator says it would prefer the broadcaster to retain its licence but is “ready” for it to hand it back.

The regulator published its vision for PSB in a report last month. It supported calls from ITV to reduce the PSB commitments that it is required to meet for its free spectrum. Ofcom proposed that it could reduce its PSB obligations from next year including a reduction in regional programming, such as daytime news bulletins and non-news shows by 50% to 15 minutes per week in England and one and half hours in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

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