BBC 1st terrestrial with BSkyB digital carriage

But labor woes threaten Cup coverage

LONDON — BSkyB will carry BBC channels on the satcaster’s new Sky Digital platform. The pubcaster is the first British terrestrial to firm such a deal.

The agreement, which entails a payment approved by the government but for which terms were not disclosed, follows 18 months of negotiations. The Beeb is not required to pay for cable or digital terrestrial carriage but that provision does not extend to satellite.

Other Brit broadcasters remain unhappy with the terms BSkyB is setting for digital carriage. The ITV network, the major U.K. commercial terrestrial web, has refused to pay for carriage on Sky Digital — which is due to soft launch this month. Channel 5 plans to put its objections to BSkyB’s terms to Oftel, the British telco regulator.

Initially, there will be four BBC services on BSkyB’s eventual 200-channel platform: digital versions of the two established terrestrial channels, BBC1 and BBC2, as well as the news net BBC News 24 and BBC Choice, which will offer extended and additional programming to that on BBC1 and BBC2. Other BBC services, such as BBC Learning, are in the pipeline.

Labor threatens Cup coverage

The corporation’s digital expansion comes as it attempts to minimize disruption to its coverage of the World Cup – soccer’s premier event beginning this week in France – due to work stoppages by disgruntled employees.

BBC technical staff, who are members of the Bectu broadcasting union, have threatened to selectively strike, not just during Cup broadcasts, but also during other sports programming such as the Wimbledon tennis tournament.

A 24-hour strike last Thursday disrupted BBC television and radio. At issue are the pubcaster’s plans to reorganize its technical arm into a separate private company, BBC Resources.

While targeting the World Cup will not win the union any goodwill from British soccer fans, French TV unions have expressed solidarity with Bectu and are discussing how they could support the action.