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28/03/2003

BBC regional variations may lose prominence on Sky

For the first time since announcing their withdrawal from a conditional access deal with BSkyB, the BBC have acknowledged that their regional services may lose prominence on the satellite giant's electronic programme guide (EPG).
In a briefing note prepared for the House of Lords in advance of the second reading of the Communications Bill, and seen by the Media Guardian, the BBC admit that BSkyB would be within their legal rights to relegate BBC regional services to obscure parts of the EPG, which would likely dramatically affect ratings.
The BBC have agreed to negotiate a charge with BSkyB for carriage on the EPG, mentioning a sum of £30,000 in their original statement, but talks last week broke up without agreement.
The BBC maintain that BSkyB are obliged to carry the public service broadcaster's channels with "due prominence", but it appears that this does not extend to regional variations.
BSkyB believe that since the proposed alternative carrier, Astra 2D, have a footprint into Ireland, to carry the BBC channels in their current position would endanger the prominence agreement with RTE
The BBC have dismissed this argument and have threatened to involve the ITC if a "fair and reasonable" rate for carriage cannot be agreed.
(GB)
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