The Office of Fair Trading has said Macquarie UK Broadcast Ventures Limited’s purchase of the former BBC transmitter network, now controlled by National Grid Wireless Group, should be referred to the Competition Commission. The OFT has concluded that the merger of the two terrestrial broadcast transmission companies would result in a substantial lessening of competition in the sector. Macquarie already owns Arqiva, which is responsible for the transmission of ITV, Channel 4 and Five, and has already secured contracts for the three major UK digital multiplexes.
In a statement Sean Williams, OFT Executive Director, said that despite a package of remedies from the Australian infrastructure group Macquarie, the organisation could not be satisfied they met the OFT requirements. “The transaction creates a monopoly supplier in TV and radio transmission services in a sector where it is difficult for companies to enter the market. Despite some efficiencies, it appears the merger will likely reduce the overall innovation, quality, and price benefits enjoyed by broadcasters and ultimately consumers.”
Since the privatisation of the BBC and ITV transmitter networks, the UK’s broadcast infrastructure has been variously owned by US, French and Australian interests.
The Competition Commission is expected to make its findings public by January 22, 2008.