LONDON: UK communications regulator Ofcom has launched a probe into the country's pay-TV market, dominated by News Corporation's BSkyB. The investigation was prompted by complaints from four of Sky's rivals: BT, Setanta, Top Up TV and Virgin Media.

It follows the bitter spat between Sky and Virgin after the former pulled its basic channels package from the latter's cable platform after failing to agree on carriage fees [WARC News: 02-Mar-07].

Ofcom says its investigation will gather information from all players in the market, after which it will decide whether make a referral to the Competition Commission.

It also says other groups, including its Consumer Panel and the National Consumer Council, have voiced concerns about the consequences for customers of the Virgin/Sky standoff.

In addition, the investigation will probe the competition implications of Sky's application to launch a digital terrestrial pay-TV service to rival the BBC's hugely successful Freeview platform [WARC News: 12-Feb-07].

Ofcom's decision is another regulatory blow for Sky, which already faces questions over its purchase of a 17.9% stake in the UK's biggest commercial broadcaster ITV [WARC News: 16-Jan-07].

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