Ofcom warns Sky over plans to
withdraw free channels
BY A CORRESPONDENT
February 19, 2006
Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator
of the United Kingdom, has warned
satellite television channel Sky that
it would carry out a thorough
investigation of its plans to bring
pay-TV to the Freeview platform.
Ofcom also hinted that it would not
approve the proposals if they
diminished the appeal of the digital
Sky had unveiled last week plans to
withdraw its free channels from the
Freeview platform, proposing to
replace them with subscription sports,
films, news and entertainment
Ofcom said it had not yet received
Sky’s formal application to make the
changes, but said that when it did, it
would need to determine whether “any
variation to the channel line-up might
unacceptably diminish the appeal of
the channels to a variety of tastes
Virgin Media, which has been embroiled
in a war of words with Sky for weeks,
once again hit out at Sky’s proposals
on Friday, claiming that they would be
detrimental to Freeview customers.
“Sky's plan to withdraw free channels
for the Digital Terrestrial Television
(DTT) platform and replace them with
pay channels shows how determined it
is to undermine Freeview,” a spokesman
of Virgin said.
“Policy-makers and consumers alike
ought to be concerned about Britain’s
dominant pay-TV provider extending its
influence to the Freeview platform.
The result will be less choice on
Freeview,” the spokesman said.
Sky said it believed its proposals
would enhance consumer choice. “We
believe that our proposals will
increase the availability of some of
Sky’s most popular content, and will
enhance the line-up of programming on
the DTT platform,” said a Sky
Opinions are polarised on the effects
of bringing paid-for television to the
While Virgin believes it will be
detrimental to the pay-TV market, as
more pay-TV customers discover they
can get the content they want on the
Freeview platform without signing up
to a full contract, others argue that
it will reduce the attraction of
Freeview, causing more customers to
migrate to pay-TV contracts.
Along with the public row over the
future of Freeview, the two companies
are also struggling to agree on terms
for the provision of Sky channels on
the Virgin platform.
This week, Sky took out television
advertisements to warn the customers
of Virgin that they may lose access to
Sky channels in 2007, and urged them
to call the Virgin helpline to lobby
against their withdrawal.
Though the negotiations are under way,
Sky claims that Virgin has failed to
offer a fair price for its content.