ISLEWORTH, UK: A ruling by the UK Competition Appeal Tribunal has instructed NewsCorp's UK satellite services monopoly BSkyB to reduce its 17.9% holding in the country's biggest commercial TV broadcaster ITV, slashing this to below 7.5%.

BSkyB originally acquired its share in ITV in 2006, a move seen by analysts at the time as an effort to block its rival NTL (now rebranded Virgin Media) from taking-over the ailing broadcaster.

In April 2007, the Office of Fair Trading ruled that the Sky stake could limit ITV's independence, sparking an investigation by the Competition Commission. 

The Commission argued that the deal restricted competition and gave BSkyB undue influence over ITV, leading the former to appeal to the Tribunal. 

A Virgin Media spokesperson said of the decision: "We've consistently maintained that this undermined the plurality of the UK's media and reflected a systematic effort to suppress competition."

BSkyB has said it will "review the judgement carefully and decide on next steps in due course." 

Its concerns are said to include the size of the share it must now surrender, as this would mean it was forced to give up its voting rights.

Data sourced from BBC Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff