DIGITAL REVOLUTION : Who really won the battle?

So who really won the battle for control over the future of digital terrestial broadcasting? We do not know yet, because as ever, the devil is in the detail. No one has seen the nature of the contracts between Rupert Murdoch and BDB, the winning Carlton/Granada consortium. Their licence depends on retaining premier sports and movies, so how much leverage power will BSkyB still wield?

BDB were whooping it up yesterday. They couldn't believe their luck - all this and no Murdoch, now the ITC has cleverly removed him directly from the bid. All the equity is theirs and they still have the Sky channels that helped them win. The ITC was plainly convinced by Murdoch's oft-repeated maxim that only his dominant sports and movies can act as the "battering ram" to force viewers to buy into new technology. "A miracle result!" enthused one leading BDB player. It never occured to them, they said, that the ITC would do anything as imaginative as throwing Murdoch out of the bid, while keeping his channels.

Is Murdoch down-hearted? No doubt he would like to have had a one-third control over digital terrestial: he has always wanted a foothold in terrestial television. On the other hand, he now has to put up no money and yet his ready-made channels will still take out 70 per cent of the revenues. Not bad.

What's more, access to digital television for both satellite and terrestial will still go through his set-top box, and all subscribers for pay-TV will still be managed by his subscriber management system. He will still control the electronic programme guide, which decides how easy it is for viewers to access what they want. Will they be unfairly pushed towards watching Sky instead of, say, the BBC? Oftel, the regulator, is confident fair access can be guaranteed. But BSkyB and BT will be providing the key interactive services, which smacks of monoply too.

Murdoch will still cast a threatening shadow. His channels will now be on cable, satellite and terrestial. Who will have the money to bid against him for premier sports and movie rights? BDB claim there is no reason why they should not, but other seasoned observers note that Murdoch usually has "No-compete" clauses, or secret understandings in his contracts. At an off-the-record occasion recently, a leading BDB player said there would be no "head-on" competition with Sky for these rights.

About this, Oftel is plainly alarmed. In an extraordinary attack on the ITC, its fellow regulator, Don Cruikshank, the Oftel Director General, fired off a warning statement yesterday raising grave doubts about BDB: "The participation of BSkyB... as a long-term supplier of certain pay- TV services, in particular sports programming, raises substantial competition concerns."

Prodded by the Government, the ITC was bold in ejecting Murdoch from a share in ownership. The question now is whether Oftel is right in fearing his market dominance none the less.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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 General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test