The battle between BT and BSkyB continues to mount with UK regulator Ofcom opening an investigation into the News Corp.-controlled pay-TV group on the back of a complaint brought by BT. In the claim, which BT filed in late May, the group alleges that BSkyB has engaged in an abuse of dominant position by withholding its sports channels from BT’s YouView platform unless BT supplies its own sports channels to Sky for retail on Sky’s platform. Ofcom says it believes there are reasonable grounds for suspecting an infringement under the 1998 Competition Act and will consider whether Sky has abused a dominant position under UK and/or EU law. BT and Sky have become fierce competitors especially where sports, notably soccer, are concerned. BT is in the process of acquiring ESPN’s UK and Ireland TV channels business and is launching a new Sport TV package this summer which it is offering for free to its broadband customers. BSkyB and BT share the rights to Britain’s Premiere League soccer games with the former holding 116 live matches and the latter 38. The season kicks off in August. Sky said today it considers BT’s complaint to be “entirely without merit.” Sky group director of corporate affairs Graham McWilliam added, “In long negotiations with BT, we have tried hard to uphold a simple principle of mutual supply so that both of us would offer all our customers all Premier League matches from next season. However, BT has remained intent on a one-way deal which is loaded in its favor. This is not something that we – or anyone else – could reasonably have been expected to agree to.”
The UK government and regulator, Ofcom, are taking the next steps to bring the Digital Economy Act’s mass notification system on copyright infringement into effect. After a court case slowed down the legislation, Ofcom’s new draft code is now expected to head to Parliament later this year. The code calls on ISPs to alert subscribers when their connection is suspected of being used to illegally share films or music. For now, the code covers ISPs with more than 400K broadband customers including BT, Everything Everywhere, O2, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin. BT and Talk Talk had previously argued that it was not for them to police their customers, but they lost on appeal. ISPs will also be required to explain to subscribers how they can protect their networks and where they can find licensed content. Copyright owners in turn are expected to invest in awareness campaigns and develop “attractive online services to offer their content.” The government, for its part, has put secondary legislation before Parliament that would see the notification system paid for by rights holders with ISPs paying a smaller element.
With 26,000 members of the global media converging in London this summer, the 2012 Olympic Games will be the biggest media event in history. As such, Britain’s communications regulator, Ofcom, says demand from wireless technologies will more than double in the capital during the Games’ seven-week run — testing the country’s spectrum reserves like never before. With wireless spectrum already at full capacity in London for many of the applications to be used during the Olympics, Ofcom has devised plans to manage the airwaves including borrowing spectrum from public sector bodies like the Ministry of Defence. It will also free up unused civil frequencies and make use of spectrum that’s available without a license. Ofcom has been at the task since 2006, shortly after London won the bid to host the Games. Tests have been run in the past year, including at the April 2011 wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. During the Games, up to 20,000 wireless frequencies will be assigned for such technologies as wireless cameras, microphones, timing and scoring systems and sports commentary systems. That’s more than double the number usually assigned in a year.
Alibaba Group’s Chief Exec Wants To Buy Yahoo
Jack Ma, chairman and CEO of China’s e-commerce company Alibaba Group, said he is “very, very interested” in acquiring Yahoo and discussed options with other potential buyers, according to Reuters. Buying the …
UPDATE: UK Regulator Asks If News Corp Is Fit To Own BSkyB After Growing Scandal Leads To Inquiries And Arrest
James Murdoch has warned the UK government that News Corp could move overseas if the regulator blocks its £7.8 billion ($12.5 billion) bid for BSkyB. News Corp’s European and Asian boss made the veiled threat talking to investment bank analysts in Barcelona. The government must decide whether it wants to risk “jeopardising an £8 billion investment in the UK” with a prolonged investigation, Murdoch said, noting that News Corp could relocate some of its most innovative projects to more “welcoming” countries if the UK blocks its bid for BSkyB. “From India to Italy and to Germany, countries are becoming more welcoming of investment and more welcoming of what we can bring,” Murdoch said.
Fox brass are getting more and more nervous about the way Simon Cowell is conducting this controversial but lucrative 7th series of The X Factor in the UK before the show comes to the U.S. in Fall 2011. Viewers are ringing up ITV and TV regulator Ofcom complaining that Sunday’s vote show was rigged. They’re mad because Treyc Cohen, 28, was booted off The X Factor after a sing-off with tabloid favourite Katie Waissel, whose panic attacks and other escapades make for better ratings than Cohen’s serviceable voice but dull presence. One judge abstained after two other judges, including Simon Cowell, voted to send Cohen home, and a fourth judge voted for her to stay. Had that judge not abstained, creating deadlock, then the public vote would have decided the winner, which would have been Cohen
Speaking in the House of Lords, the UK equivalent of the Senate, David Puttnam said that News Corp’s bid to take control of BSkyB posed a threat to democracy. Here are excerpts from the speech given by the one-time Columbia Pictures boss:
My Lords… I had the honour of entering your Lordships House thirteen years ago tomorrow. Since that time there have been three or four really big issues with which I’ve consistently tried to engage – in part because they relate to experiences gained in my former life, but also because I believe they represent the type of issues upon which rests the future of the type of society most of us would wish to live in… My Lords, the purpose of this afternoon’s debate is to draw attention to the possibility that we are on the edge of a very slippery slope – one that could find us falling further and further under the influence of a single, US-based owner, with a highly questionable interest in the benefits of a diverse and flourishing plural media here in the United Kingdom. So why this debate, and why now?
The primary reason My Lords is that News Corporation yesterday notified the European Commission of its intention to purchase the 61% of BSkyB that it does not presently own. As I’ve already mentioned, this morning we heard the welcome news that this proposal had been referred by the Secretary of State, to Ofcom. It’s my most sincere hope that the Coalition’s proposed ‘trimming’ of Ofcom’s powers will not result in any diminution of its capacity to exercise those powers in respect of important matters such as this.
There, are of course, a number of aspects to media plurality – notably the Government’s proposals to repeal the local “cross-media” ownership laws, but this afternoon I only have time to focus on the really big issue resulting from News Corporation’s power, reach and influence. It’s my contention that if regulators and legislators in Europe and the UK remain supine, and simply wave this proposed acquisition through, the consequences for the citizens, as well as the political class in this country could become deeply troubling. The purchase of these shares would give News Corporation an unprecedented level of control over the UK media, one that to my mind has the potential to be extremely damaging, not just in respect of media plurality, but to informed democratic debate as a whole.
The Daily Telegraph has been leaked a list of 177 taxpayer-funded agencies to be abolished by the new British government. There’s a question mark over the British Council, which promotes UK film culture abroad. And the Film Industry Training Board, chaired by A-Team producer Iain Smith, is set to be privatised. (Smith told me the government’s decision came out of the blue. “We are now trying to establish what it might involve.”) The BBC World Service just announced
Broadcasters must let TV viewers know which programmes contain product placement, according to new rules published today. A symbol will appear at the start and end of programmes, says communications regulator Ofcom.
The UK government is finally allowing …