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Kelvin MacKenzie, former editor of The Sun and MD of BSkyB, has dismissed the tender process announced by the Premier League last week as a “racket” that would do nothing to reduce what he claims are anti-competitive conditions that disadvantage broadcasters such as his own new Sports Tonight business.
The founder of the small sport-focused TV channel claims BSkyB’s deal with the Football League is anti-competitive, constitutes “warehousing” – overpaying for rights which are then never used – and breaches European Union directives.
His attack is focused on the £195 million (€242m) deal that gives BSkyB rights to broadcast matches in the three lower divisions of English football, the Championship and Leagues One and Two, as well as the junior knockout competitions – the League Cup, currently known as the Carling Cup, and the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. He argues that the rights should be negotiated by clubs individually rather than collectively by the Football League.
Ofcom can investigate a broadcasting rights deal and refer it to the Competition Commission if it believes it may be unfair.
MacKenzie is also unhappy with the Premier League deal, which sees BSkyB with five out of six live match packages and ESPN, owned by Disney, with one in six. New terms which bundle online and mobile device rights with the main TV rights, would make matters worse, he said.
MacKenzie wants to be able to buy or sublet some rights for Sports Tonight, which will launch as a channel on Sky’s satellite platform next month, having been web-based since last August.