Virgin Media angers viewers as dispute with UKTV wipes popular shows like Porridge and Red Dwarf

Dave and Gold among 10 channels to disappear from screens overnight 

Jane Dalton
Sunday 22 July 2018 14:33
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Porridge, with Ronnie Barker, Richard Beckinsale and Fulton Mackay, is among the classic shows no longer available
Porridge, with Ronnie Barker, Richard Beckinsale and Fulton Mackay, is among the classic shows no longer available

Virgin Media customers are up in arms after being deprived of their favourite shows such as Porridge, Red Dwarf, Only Fools and Horses and The Vicar of Dibley.

Some viewers said they were cancelling their subscriptions after popular channels Dave and Gold were wiped from their boxes in a business dispute with UKTV.

Other customers pledged to abandon the digital cable TV provider if the services were not restored.

UKTV, which owns Dave and Gold, has been locked in negotiations for days with Virgin Media over fees for its 10 channels, including five that are free-to-air.

As they disappeared from about 4 million subscribers' televisions at midnight, viewers were also left unable to access UKTV on-demand services via their Virgin Media sets.

Free-to-air channels Dave, Yesterday, Home, Drama and Really, as well as paid-for channels Gold, Alibi, Eden, Good Food and W were replaced this morning.

Gold features classic comedies such as Only Fools and Horses, and Australian crime drama Harrow is on Alibi.

A revival of sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf has boosted Dave's viewing figures after it commissioned four new series.

One Twitter user wrote: "Will be cancelling TV, broadband & all phones as soon as we can get through to someone at Virgin! Think they might be busy with a lot of angry customers."

Another warned Virgin Media: “So this looks like the end. 15 years a customer and you've messed up big-time. Sky shop Wednesday unless you fix it. #SaveDave"

The stalemate also leaves fans of shows including Taskmaster and Judge Romesh unable to see their favourites.

Virgin Media has accused UKTV, which is co-owned by BBC Studios and US broadcaster Discovery, of seeking "inflated sums" for its paid channels.

The reality is that we just can't accept the drastic price cut that Virgin wants

Darren Childs

David Bouchier, of Virgin Media, said they were ready to restore UKTV's free channels, such as Dave, immediately with its permission.

"We have been in extensive discussions with UKTV but we have not been able to reach an agreement which reflects the reality of how people are watching television in the 21st century,” he said. "UKTV is insisting on holding back its channels, like Dave, which are freely available over the air and online, unless we pay inflated sums of money for its paid channels like Gold.

"On top of this, UKTV is unable to provide the extensive on-demand programming which is expected of a modern-day broadcaster."

But UKTV chief executive Darren Childs said the company could not accept the "drastic" cut in price that Virgin was seeking to show its paid-for channels on its pay-to-view service.

"We're hugely disappointed for the many customers who are losing out because our channels are no longer available through Virgin Media," he said.

"We completely understand their frustration and would love to continue to bring them the shows and channels that they're so passionate about, but we need a fair price to support our growing investment in programmes.

The 10 channels are still available on subscription services provided by Sky, BT and TalkTalk, as well as Freeview and Freesat, which are usually included as standard with new televisions.

Viewers can also watch them online via UKTV Play.

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