LONDON: A provisional ruling by the UK's Competition Commission has found that satellite television giant BSkyB's swoop on a 17.9% stake in leading commercial TV company ITV was against the public interest.

News Corporation-controlled Sky, Britain's biggest pay-TV provider, may now be forced to dispose of some or all of its holding in ITV, but the Commission says it will make its final decision at the beginning of January 2008.

The watchdog found Sky's shareholding "could lead to a substantial lessening of competition," by influencing ITV's strategy.

It says in a statement: "As a pay-TV operator, BSkyB faces competition from the free-to-air TV offer, of which ITV is an important part.

"BSkyB would therefore have both the ability and incentive to take advantage of opportunities to weaken ITV or prevent it from taking actions that would threaten BSkyB's interests."

However, the Commission found the acquisition "will have no adverse effect on the sufficiency of plurality," a reference to concerns that it could reduce news choice or have an adverse impact on TV advertising.

A statement from BSkyB said: "We note the Competition Commission's announcement of its provisional findings and possible remedies. We will continue to engage with the Commission during the remainder of this process."

Data sourced from BBC Online; additional content by WARC staff