UK-based Castle Transmission International is still interested in buying Broadcast Communications (BCL), TVNZ's transmission business.
The UK arm of transmission services specialist Crown Castle, CTI bought the BBC's Home Service transmission business in early 1997 and won a 10-year contract to supply the BBC's analogue services. Later that year it won a 12-year contract to supply the BBC's new digital terrestrial television (DTT) service, as well as being appointed transmission supplier to British Digital Broadcasting.
Patrick Handley of the Brunswick Group, which manages CTI's public relations, describes the purchase of the BBC business and subsequent supply contracts as being of "strategic" significance to the UK and international broadcast industry.
"It's given the BBC the cash it needs for digital transmission development programme [which then pays CTI for the transmission service] and it means Castle Transmission can now develop a commercial digital transmission business both in the UK and overseas."
It's that possibility of overseas development which has brought BCL into Castle's sights. Handley says CTI has been looking at possibilities internationally, "mainly in the commonwealth countries and the like — places with similar legal systems, and where there's potential for transmission to be privatised".
The model used in the UK can easily be taken overseas, he says. "It's a case of looking for a public or semi-public service that wants to get out of a non-core area and needs cash. It's worked very successfully here and there's been no controversy: the BBC benefits, the consumer benefits and it can only get better."
In the UK CTI has also developed relationships with mobile telecommunications companies, leasing the use of its network of transmission masts. "That's let the mobile companies reduce their own capital expenditure," says Handley, "and means CTI gets more business out of the equipment it has in place".