Freeview's backers, the BBC, BSkyB and Crown Castle, have said they would welcome ITV and Channel Four as additional stakeholders in Britain's fast-growing digital terrestrial platform.
The development comes amid mounting speculation that the bidding battle for the new Freeview channel slot could result in both ITV and Channel 4 each being granted broadcast capacity.
According to Broadcast, Freeview chairman Peter Abery—also Crown Castle's chief executive—said he would particularly encourage interest from the two broadcasters.
An un-named Freeview board member was quoted as saying: "We would be delighted to take their money."
Last week, ITV chief executive Charles Allen stressed the importance of Freeview in ITV's multichannel strategy. He said ITV was "most supportive of Freeview which offers the simplest upgrade route for our viewers".
Crown Castle invited bids for the new 18-hours-a-day channel in January. Several companies, including Five, Turner, Top-Up TV, Disney, NBC Universal and Sit-Up TV, entered the race, but ITV and Channel 4 were reportedly the frontrunners, with bids said to have exceeded £5m.
Crown Castle was expected to announce the winner last week, but then came news that the transmission company was working on freeing up a further new channel slot. Reports said the additonal channel could begin broadcasting in the second half of 2005.
However, media news site C21Media has reported that Crown Castle might be prepared to bring forward the launch date for the second spare channel, enabling ITV to win one channel, and Channel 4 gain the other.
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