One Vision given two weeks to clinch digital television contract
Published 02/04/2010 | 05:00
THE Broadcasting Authority has given the One Vision consortium a fortnight to clinch an elusive deal on the commercial contract for Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT).
The regulator has also asked a third party to review details of One Vision's protracted carriage negotiations with RTE's networks division, the Irish Independent has learned. The moves come almost 11 months after One Vision was offered the commercial DTT contract when Boxer DTT abandoned plans to spend €160m on the project.
The Eircom-led consortium was initially expected to sign the contract within weeks, and Broadcasting Authority chairman Bob Collins recently said his board had "very little patience" left with the impasse.
A Broadcasting Authority board meeting on Monday was initially seen as "make or break" for the project, but the Authority has instead given One Vision a fortnight to indicate definitively whether they're prepared to go ahead with the project.
One Vision is understood to have a number of issues left to address, including the crucial contract with RTE, which will provide the technology platform for the TV service.
To facilitate a deal on this, a third party will now examine documents relating to those network negotiations.
Sources close to the process stressed that there was no question of the third party being able to issue any binding recommendations for what is essentially a normal commercial deal.
It is understood that the lengthy One Vision delays mean that plans to have commercial DTT on in 2010 are now beyond reach. RTE is expected to roll out public service DTT from October, in keeping with a recent ministerial instruction, however the public information campaign around DTT is not expected to begin until the commercial service goes live.
A spokesman for the Broadcasting Authority declined to comment on the latest moves, saying only that talks were "ongoing". A spokesman for One Vision said the consortium was still "very much engaged in the process".
If One Vision fails to sign the contract, the commercial DTT project will then be offered to an RTE / Liberty Global consortium which came third in the initial contract battle.
Whether that consortium would accept the contract or not remains unclear.