Britain's ITV Invokes Regulator in Spat With BSkyB

07 January 2005

ITV, the UK's largest commercial broadcaster, has run to teacher, telling tales about nasty big bully Rupert Murdoch.

It seems that bruiser Rupe (or possibly son James, who runs BSkyB, Daddy's British satellite digital TV operation) won't let puny little ITV play on its nice big seven-million-subscriber platform without handing over lots of pennies from its piggybank.

ITV has accordingly bleated to teacher - better known as UK media and telecoms regulator Ofcom - complaining that BSkyB's charges are "unfair, unreasonable and unduly discriminatory and therefore in breach of BSkyB's obligations under EU and UK law".

The two broadcasters failed to reach agreement in November over renewal of ITV's contract, and a two month interregnum was agreed. But talks have reached stalemate and ITV has lodged a formal complaint with the regulator on competition grounds.

ITV wants to slash its current £17 million ($31.9m; €24.17m) annual encryption fee to just £4m - the amount recently negotiated by state-owned broadcaster, the BBC.

Encryption ensures that satellite viewers receive the correct regional version of a broadcast channel - a matter of considerable importance to advertisers. And to sports bodies and movie studios, neither of which want their properties shown in 'overspill' countries like Ireland and France.

ITV is adamant it won't pay the current fee for its channels, the most recent of which (ITV3) has been broadcast unencrypted since its launch last year.

The terrestrial company has also invoked Ofcom's rule that "comparable broadcasters purchasing comparable services at broadly similar times should pay comparable prices".

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff