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Murdoch’s BSkyB faces U.K. probe

Rival broadcasters complain of price discrepancies

LONDON — The U.K.’s competition regulator is probing Rupert Murdoch’s British Sky Broadcasting over possible anti-competitive practices.

The Office of Fair Trading has launched a six-month investigation of the satcaster, in particular how it supplies its proprietary TV channels to rival broadcasters. The move escalates a review begun in January.

BSkyB recently agreed to a programming exchange deal with NTL, Britain’s biggest cable company, but as yet has no arrangement with ONdigital — the terrestrial platform co-owned by ITV network companies Carlton and Granada — and Telewest, the nation’s other cabler.

Price gap?

In January BSkyB plans to up the cost of its channels, which include the Sky One entertainment web and the Sky sports and movies channels, reportedly by up to 40%.

The satcaster argues that it has to do so to offset increased costs, including acquiring the rights to English Premier League soccer.

The competition complains that there is a huge discrepancy between what they pay and what BSkyB charges itself.

If BSkyB is found guilty of breaking laws introduced last March, it could face a fine of up to 10% of its annual sales.

“We welcome it,” an ONdigital spokesman said of the inquiry. “It’s what we’ve been asking for, for some time.”

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