Murdoch's hold over pay TV under attack

Furious UK cable companies have complained to the Office of Fair Trading and competition authorities in Brussels over Rupert Murdoch's control of the pay TV market in Britain.

A formal complaint has been launched with the European Commission asking that agreements signed between BSkyB, the satellite and cable broadcaster 40 per cent owned by Mr Murdoch's News Corp, and two UK cable companies be overturned on the grounds that they restrain trade.

The OFT has also been asked to look at the contracts, and has formally requested copies from Nynex CableComms and TeleWest, two large cable companies.

Mr Murdoch's pay TV woes came to a head just as he confirmed to an Italian newspaper that he was prepared to buy outright Silvio Berlusconi's three commercial television stations in Italy.

The cable company contracts were signed earlier this month. A copy of the Nynex contract, seen by the Independent, enjoins Nynex from investing in or carrying products that compete directly with Sky programming. In exchange, the company receives advantageous rates for the carriage of Sky's movies, sports and general interest channels.

Sky's rates and programming packages for cable companies were the subject of an informal undertaking from BSkyB earlier this year, following complaints from the cable industry. The OFT and BSkyB agreed that cable companies could buy Sky services a la carte, and that a standard rate card would be established. BSkyB offered to provide programming at a discount for companies willing to sign a fixed-price agreement.

CableTel is leading the battle against BSkyB. Its chief operating officer, Steven Wagner, said yesterday that "companies operating without a fixed contract are facing large increases" in the amount they must pay BSkyB for programming. Mr Wagner said his costs would rise 20 per cent, which he would have to pass on to customers.

Several other cable companies are supporting CableTel's complaint. They argue that BSkyB's control over encryption technology, by which television signals are scrambled and unscrambled, gives it a gatekeeper role in pay TV. In addition, they complain that Mr Murdoch's arrangements with Astra, the satellite company, restrict access to the UK market for other players. Finally, they believe Mr Murdoch has secured key programming rights at high prices, limiting the amount of non-Sky broadcasts available to the cable industry.

In an effort to build alternative sources of programming, several cable companies, including CableTel, Nynex and TeleWest, together secured rights to various programmes. Some were sold to Mirror Group when it decided to launch LiveTV. The remainder of rights have been retained by a joint venture established by the consortium of cable companies.

Earlier this week, Nynex refused to continue to finance the alternative package beyond 31 May. TeleWest said it would consider extending its funding role only if the cable companies brought in BSkyB as a partner.

Meanwhile, Mr Murdoch's intentions toward Mr Berlusconi's TV empire became clearer yesterday. He told the Turin daily La Stampa that as far as he was concerned Mr Berlusconi had already decided to sell everything. Mr Murdoch was interested in buying as many television stations as he could get hold of, or failing that a share in the business as a whole.

News
Actor Burt Reynolds last year
newsBurt Reynolds, once among the most bankable actors in Hollywood, is set to auction his memorabilia
News
Gordon and Tana Ramsay arrive at the High Court, London
newsTV chef gives evidence against his father-in-law in court case
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books'It's a simple, sweet and charming tale; it’s very heartfelt'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
One of the installations in the Reiner Ruthenbeck exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery
artCritics defend Reiner Ruthenbeck's 'Overturned Furniture'
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Austen Lloyd: Company Secretary

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: EAST ANGLIA - SENIOR SOLICITOR LEVEL ROLE** -...

Citifocus Ltd: German Speaking Client Specialist

£Attractive Package: Citifocus Ltd: Prestigious asset management house seeks a...

Citifocus Ltd: Performance & Risk Oversight

£Negotiable: Citifocus Ltd: This is a varied role focusing on the firm's mutua...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Sales Director - SaaS (SME/Channel) - £140,000 OTE

£90000 - £140000 per annum + benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Are you a high achievin...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game