BBC Calls in Regulator in UK Satellite Dispute

01 April 2003

The BBC is calling in the Independent Television Commission to adjudicate on its dispute with satellite operator BSkyB.

Its decision to invoke the regulator follows the two sides’ failure to reach a compromise over the placement of the publicly funded BBC’s channels on the electronic programme guide of Sky Digital, Britain’s leading satellite-TV platform.

The Corporation – which very rarely tangles with the ITC – said BSkyB “had not given a satisfactory response” to its proposals for a settlement.

The cause of the spat was the BBC’s decision not to renew its digital channel encryption agreement with Murdoch-controlled BSkyB when it expires at the end of May. The Corporation will instead switch to the new Astra 2D satellite [WAMN: 19-Mar-03], which will broadcast its digital signal unencrypted.

Sky’s response, says the BBC, was to threaten to remove the public broadcaster’s BBC1 and BBC2 channels from their coveted positions at the head of its EPG, shifting them as far down as numbers 52 and 53.

The BBC claims it cannot do this, as under ITC regulations public service broadcasters must be given positions of “due prominence” on the EPG.

BSkyB, on the other hand, says it has no choice, since the BBC’s unencrypted signal will be available in the Republic of Ireland, where local broadcaster RTE occupies the top two spots on Sky’s EPG. However, the BBC dismisses this argument as a “complete red herring”.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff