UK media regulator Ofcom is to referee the bout between the country's largest commercial broadcaster ITV and satellite operator BSky B.

The two heavyweights are punching it out over prices demanded by the Rupert Murdoch-controlled satellite platform to transmit ITV programs [WAMN:07-Jan-2005].

ITV claims Sky's charges are "unfair, unreasonable and unduly discriminatory" and is hoping Ofcom will force it to lower them. The regulator's adjudication - the first in a dispute between such big names - will be made public in May.

Sky refutes all such complaints, pledges to co-operate with Ofcom and expects to be vindicated in its demand for up to £15 million ($28m, €21m) a year to encrypt ITV's output.

Encryption ensures satellite viewers receive the correct regional version of a broadcast channel, a matter of importance to advertisers.

ITV believes it should pay around £4m for the service, in line with an agreement struck with Sky by the state-funded BBC following a similar dispute in 2003.

The BBC is also reportedly keen for ITV to abandon its deal with Sky in favour of the former's Freesat, a subscription-free rival service.

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