UK - Television company ITV is fighting a ruling by the UK Pensions Regulator that could force it to pay as much as £62m (€74m) to the Box Clever pension scheme.

Acting for the trustee, law firm Eversheds issued a statement saying the regulator was requiring ITV to provide support for the pension scheme, which has a deficit of £62m.

Box Clever was a joint venture set up in 2000 as part of a merger of the Granada and Thorn TV companies.

Granada - which later merged with Carlton Communications to form ITV - received more than £500m from Box Clever, according to Eversheds.

But an ITV spokesperson said: “ITV has never participated in the Box Clever Scheme and has had no control over the growth of its deficit, and we have not been ordered to pay £62m or indeed any amount by the pensions regulator. 

“ITV is appealing the ruling of the panel and will pursue this vigorously, and no Financial Support Direction (FSD) may be issued against it while an appeal is pending.”

Under Section 43 of the Pensions Act 2004, FSDs require companies to put financial support for pension schemes in place.

A spokesperson for the Pensions Regulator confirmed that its determinations panel recently decided to issue FSDs to five companies in the ITV group, including ITV plc.

At the end of 2009, the Box Clever pension scheme had assets of only £14.4m to cover the £76.5m required to provide pensions for its 3,000 members, Eversheds said.

Alan Herbert, chairman at Box Clever Trustees Limited, said: “The trustee applauds the steps the Pensions Regulator has taken to protect the scheme’s pensioners.

“ITV took over £500m out of Box Clever. It would not be right for the pensioners to suffer. Nor for the burden to be dumped onto the Pension Protection Fund, which has to look to other pension schemes and their employers to fund the schemes that fail.”

Giles Orton, partner at Eversheds, said: “The Pensions Regulator has concluded that this is just the sort of situation it was empowered to deal with.

“Indeed, if this were not a case for a Financial Support Direction, it is hard to see what is.”