There's dynamite hidden in a seeming dry document issued Thursday by British broadcast regulator Ofcom.

It could signal the begining of the end for a powerful US-owned duopoly - NTL and Crown Castle Communications - which maintains a public profile lower than an earthworm's paunch while effectively controlling the UK's entire broadcast transmission market - including that of the BBC.

As part of the European Union regulatory framework, Ofcom has identified the market for terrestrial broadcasting transmission as appropriate for regulation, and defined discrete markets in two areas: (1) Access to masts and sites; and (2) Managed transmission services.

Accordingly, the watchdog yesterday launched a public consultation document that outlines its proposals on the UK broadcasting transmission services market - namely that which delivers broadcast content direct to viewers and listeners.

Ofcom notes that:

  • NTL and Crown Castle each have significant market power in providing access to their respective masts, site networks and shared antenna systems for national, regional and metropolitan broadcasting;

  • NTL and Crown Castle jointly have significant market power in providing managed transmission services for the purpose of delivering national analogue and digital terrestrial television and radio broadcasts in the UK.

Given the positions of dominance held by Crown Castle and NTL, Ofcom proposes that both companies are required to:

  • Provide network access to their respective masts and sites and managed transmission services on reasonable request;

  • Avoid discrimination in providing network access and managed transmission services;

  • Provide network access to their respective masts and sites and managed transmission services on cost-orientated terms.

  • Publish a Reference Offer setting out the terms on which access to the mast and sites will be made available.

The closing date for responses to the broadcasting transmission services consultation is 22 December 2004. For full details of the consultation, click here.

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