BBC and BSkyB Settle UK Satellite Spat

16 June 2003

The BBC and UK pay-TV giant BSkyB have settled their satellite encryption quarrel.

Rupert Murdoch-controlled BSkyB was enraged at the BBC's decision not to renew its digital channel encryption contract when it expired in May. The Corporation wanted to switch to a new satellite whose narrower transmission area means that digital signals can be broadcast unscrambled. It claimed dropping ties with Sky would save £85 million ($143m; €120m) over five years [WAMN: 19-Mar-03].

The satellite operator’s response was to threaten to relegate the BBC’s two flagship channels to the far reaches of its electronic programming guide, as opposed to the first two positions they now occupy.

The new deal means that BBC1 and BBC2 will retain their present positions in Sky’s EPG. However, the BBC has had to backtrack slightly, agreeing to pay Sky to make sure regional versions of the channels appear in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The dispute had been referred to regulators, with the BBC waiting for a verdict before transferring to unencrypted broadcasts. Now the row has been settled, it will make the switch at the end of this month.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff