BBC to Fall From Sky?

25 October 2002

The British Broadcasting Corporation says it is considering withdrawing its two flagship channels BBC1 and BBC2 from Sky Digital, the dTV platform run by News Corporation-controlled BSkyB.

The statement is a shot across BSkyB’s bows in the run-up to the renegotiation of the deal between the two firms in May. BBC bosses are concerned that the price demanded for carriage of its channels on the Sky service – at present the only significant UK digital platform with six million subscribers – will rocket.

“We fear the fee Sky wants to charge us could at least triple,” commented BBC senior policy adviser Julian McGougan. “At some point we may have to say, sorry, something has to give and one of our options is to take our channels off the platform.”

The warning comes hot on the heels of telecoms regulator Oftel’s rejection of a claim by terrestrial commercial network ITV that it was charged too much for access to Sky [WAMN: 24-Oct-02]. ITV forged its deal much later than other broadcasters and ended up paying more as market conditions had changed, prompting speculation that older contracts up for renewal will see substantial payment hikes.

The BBC, ITV and the two other terrestrial broadcasters Channel 4 and Five are lobbying ministers to abolish Sky’s fees for public sector broadcasters. Digital cable operators NTL and Telewest make no such charges.

However, given the BBC’s heavy investment in dTV services in recent years, Sky insiders are taking the broadcaster’s threat to remove its channels from Britain’s biggest digital platform with a large handful of salt.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff