BSkyB Squeezes Virgin Media With Claimed Tiscali Deal

22 May 2007

LONDON: If Dow Jones' ruling Bancroft family - in whose hands lies the fate of the Wall Street Journal - worries that the newspaper's editorial integrity could be compromised under the ownership of Rupert Murdoch, it will not be ressured by Monday's edition of his British national title, The Times.

This concerned BSkyB, the NewsCorp-controlled UK satellite monopoly, currently in the throes of a highly publicized dispute with cable operator Virgin Media.

The row concerns several Sky channels carried by Virgin until the two companies fell out over increased carriage charges imposed by Sky. Virgin eventually took the channels off-air and has issued a lawsuit.

In financial terms, there is little doubt that Virgin has more to lose from the dispute than its Murdoch-owned rival, with subscribers deserting in droves after the axing of the Sky channels. With its lawsuit pending Virgin will be feeling the heat.

So what more opportune moment for The Times to run a story from unidentified sources that Sky is in "advanced talks" with internet service provider Tiscali to provide the latter's new HomeChoice internet TV channel with the channels formerly carried by Virgin?

This apparent 'scoop' was dismissed as "speculation" by a candid Sky spokesman, but was nevertheless picked-up and taken at face value by several other publications and news agencies.

Of course, the Tiscali tale may be gospel truth, and the editorial integrity of The Times virgo intacta.

But at the WSJ, pessimistic journalists are likely recalling the words of veteran newshound Omar Khayyam: "The moving finger writes . . ." etcetera.

Data sourced from The Times (UK); additional content by WARC staff