Government puts pressure on PSB-Sky charges

Ed VaizeyCulture minister Ed Vaizey has told the Oxford Media Convention that BSkyB should reduce the amount of money charged in carriage fees to public service broadcasters.

Vaizey said BSkyB needed to cut the fees paid by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, hinting that regulation might be brought in should a settlement not be reached.

“We’re not going to rush into a regulatory solution because I believe there’s no reason the market should not be able to work out a fair, equitable solution,” said Vaizey. “But if the industry cannot find a way to stop imposing this cost on Licence Fee payers and public service broadcasters, we will look at our options for intervention.”

Sky receives in the region of £9.5 million per year from the PSBs.

Last March the BBC saw the amount it pays to BSkyB fall by 30% following its agreement to add iPlayer content to Sky’s on demand service.

A new clause in BSkyB’s Published Price List reduced the amount paid by a public service broadcaster when one of its channels is contributing long form programming over broadband, on demand, to Sky DTH set-top boxes.

The move will reduced the amount paid by the corporation in Platform Contribution Charges for BBC One from £4,319,830 per annum to £3,171,460, while charges for the BBC News channel fell from £646,260 to £491,970 when the new charges came into effect on July 1, 2012.

Subsequently ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 have all signed deals to distribute On Demand content over the internet and through the Sky+ HD receiver.

A spokesman for BSkyB said: “Public service broadcasters benefit from the billions of pounds we’ve invested in our TV platform, and the technical services we provide them.  Thanks to Sky’s investment, they reach 40% of their audiences via our platform and use our technology to customise channels and services for the benefit of their viewers.  The payments they make are no different from broadcasters paying for electricity, studio facilities or any other services.   And just as no one expects utility firms to provide them with cheap, subsidised energy, we simply aim to recover our costs on a fair and proportionate basis.”

The BBC has also said it is considering withdrawing some regional variations from satellite.

Contribution charges, which include conditional access, and regionalization costs are calculated on a per subscriber basis.

Separately, Vaizey has announced the launch of the DTG-led Dynamic Spectrum Access Group. The Group will facilitate discussion and infor­mation sharing on DSA as the TV white space regulatory framework develops. It will also offer assistance to Ofcom and Government in their task of providing an appropriate regulatory framework.