Tribunal upholds Ofcom pay-TV ruling

UK comms regulator Ofcom has welcomed a court ruling that paves the way for more top sports events to be made available for the first time to viewers of BT’s YouView TV service.

The Competition Appeal Tribunal has published an interim ruling that Sky Sports 1 and 2 should be made available on BT’s YouView service, which uses broadband to deliver TV channels to viewers.

Ed Richards, Ofcom Chief Executive, said that after more than four years of litigation and legal challenges, Ofcom’s 2010 pay TV decision continued to serve the interests of UK consumers and that the ruling was consistent with Ofcom’s original decision.“Today’s ruling paves the way for more top sports to be available on another TV service and supports competition and innovation in the communications sector as we originally intended. Ofcom is now focused on reviewing the ‘wholesale must offer’ remedy in light of developments in pay-TV.”

In March 2010, Ofcom ruled that BSkyB should offer its Sky Sports 1 and 2 channels to other pay TV providers on a wholesale basis to promote competition and innovation to benefit consumers.

The Tribunal today recognises that this decision was imposed to ensure fair and effective competition in the public interest.

The Tribunal also recognised that it is for Ofcom to consider the impact of changed market conditions in its new review of the wholesale must offer remedy, which requires BSkyB to offer the sports channels to other pay TV providers, a development welcomed by Ofcom.

Ofcom will publish a consultation on the wholesale must offer in the coming months, which will review the wholesale must offer in light of how the pay TV market has developed since Ofcom’s original decision in March 2010.

Ofcom’s original decision was challenged at the Competition Appeal Tribunal, which said that the wholesale must offer should not stand.

However, in February 2014, the Court of Appeal judgement found that the Tribunal failed properly to consider Ofcom’s findings that there was ineffective competition in the market. It concluded that errors of law in the Tribunal decision meant that its judgement could not be upheld and remitted to the Tribunal to reconsider its decision.

The Tribunal ruling follows a recent Supreme Court decision, which rejected BSkyB’s request to challenge Ofcom’s powers to the impose the wholesale must offer on BSkyB.

Ofcom will take account of the latest decision in its current Competitions act investigation over supply of Sky Sports 1 and 2 to BT’s YouView service. BT last year complained about the terms under which BSkyB was offering these channels to BT.

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