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BT wins latest round in BSkyB fight

UK telecoms giant BT has won a victory in the Court of Appeal that could see Rupert Murdoch-owned BSkyB cut the wholesale price it charges rivals for its Sky Sports channels.

BT is taking its campaign for the right to offer the channels on its YouView set-top boxes to a competition tribunal following the victory yesterday.

The news is another blow to BSkyB in its continuing battle for sports rights with BT, which recently snatched live Champions League football rights from the broadcaster in a £897m (US$1.4bn) deal.

The saga began in March 2010, when UK market regulator Ofcom ruled that BSkyB should make its two main sports channels available to competitors like Virgin Media and BT at a lower price.

BSkyB, which built its business around offering exclusive sports programming, responded by taking the case to the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT). When that ruled in its favour, BSkyB’s rivals took the case to the higher Court of Appeal.

But that court yesterday said it could not uphold the earlier CAT ruling because it had made “errors of law.”

A BT spokesman said: “We are glad that this issue will now be considered afresh and are hopeful that the outcome will finally deliver increased competition in pay TV, which would be in the best interests of consumers.

“BT remains unable to offer Sky Sports 1 and 2 on its most important TV service, YouView. Sky’s refusal to offer access to these channels on reasonable terms causes serious harm to consumers and must be resolved urgently.”

BSkyB, however, maintained Ofcom’s 2010 decision was “flawed” and said it would continue to pursue all available options to achieve this aim.”

Ofcom said it welcomed the ruling. ”Ensuring fair and effective competition in the pay TV market has always been Ofcom’s objective,” the regulator said in a statement. “Ofcom’s 2010 decision that Sky must offer premium sports channels to other providers was designed to deliver choice and innovation to consumers through greater competition.”


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