The Office of Fair Trading has indicated that BSkyB’s controversial 17.9% stake in ITV should be referred to the Competition Commission. A report passed to the Department of Trade and Industry said the shareholding had resulted in a substantial lessening of competition within the TV sector. The decision now rests with the secretary of state Alistair Darling. The minister’s ruling is not expected for several weeks.
“This partial ownership link between two key players raises significant competition concerns,” said OFC chief executive John Fingleton in a statement. “”Sky’s shareholding means that ITV is no longer fully independent, and this may alter the future competitive landscape, especially as we approach digital switchover.” Broadband TV News notes that the tie up did not prevent BSkyB from losing rights to the FA Cup to an ITV-Setanta consortium.
BSkyB’s involvement in ITV froze out Virgin Media, which as NTL-Telewest had already made an approach for the commercial broadcaster.
The statement from the OFT came after the completion of a separate report by the regulator Ofcom.