Grade 'invites CEOs to join HD war cabinet'

ITV executive chairman Michael Grade is reportedly in the process of forming a 'war cabinet' with other senior members of the HD for All alliance of public service broadcasters, consumer electronics manufacturers and retailers, who are lobbying for spectrum to be reserved for free-to-view high-definition channels on digital terrestrial television.

The Sunday Telegraph said Grade had written to chief executives at other members of the alliance to organise its first CEO-level meeting. The meeting would bring HD for All's aims to the attention of ministers, and the public, as media regulator Ofcom continues to conduct more research into the future of spectrum due to be liberated by digital switchover, having stated its intentions to auction the entire spectrum to the highest bidder.

Grade told The Sunday Telegraph: "Retailers, manufacturers and rival broadcasters are determined to get the Government and the regulator to understand ... the level of consumer anger they are going to face after analogue switchover when the public realise that they will be unable to receive their favourite channels in HD on Freeview on the HD-ready TV sets they are buying in their millions." The newspaper said Sony UK chief Steve Dowdle had told culture secretary Tessa Jowell in a letter that the UK was "currently heading for a disastrous outcome that will deprive the majority of the UK public of HD for at least a generation if not more".

Last month Grade offered the Government a compromise solution, telling Jowell that public service broadcasters would be willing to help "drive the transition to a more efficient transmission standard on DTT" if the Government loaned them "a little over a multiplex of capacity". "In due course, once HD compatible boxes are sufficiently widespread, we will give the loaned spectrum back and it can be auctioned. Even if you did this Ofcom would still be able to auction nearly two thirds of the released spectrum now which would give plenty of space for successful bidders to develop mobile TV, wi-fi and so on," Grade told Jowell at an industry event.

As we reported last week, Tory MP Peter Luff, chairman of the Commons trade and industry select committee, says it is "unreasonable" to expect Ofcom to make what amounts to a "political decision" on HD and Freeview.

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