ONdigital scores

ITC endorses services access to BSkyB soccer

LONDON — The Independent Television Commission has come out in favor of ONdigital in its dispute with satcaster BSkyB over the supply of Sky Sports 2, one of several issues coming to a head in the broadcasters’ bitter feud over sharing programming.

Britain’s commercial TV regulator has written to both companies with the “provisional interpretation” that it sees no legal reason why ONdigital should not have the channel. British Sky Broadcasting had been withholding Sky Sports 2 based on the ITC’s rules on how many services a single programmer is allowed to supply to ONdigital.

Soccer spat

Part of the big picture is that BSkyB is frustrated that it supplies Premier League soccer to ONdigital while ONdigital has exclusive access to UEFA Champions League soccer through the ITV network. This has contributed to tit-for-tat maneuvering, such as BSkyB denying ONdigital coverage of golf’s Ryder Cup.

The satcaster indicated it would be willing to continue negotiations with ONdigital on Sky Sports 2, but described it as manifestly unreasonable that ITV continues to withhold ITV and ITV2 from its digital platform SkyDigital. The two biggest ITV companies, Granada and Carlton, co-own ONdigital.

The matter has been referred to the Office of Fair Trading, and a decision could come within weeks.

Digital changeover

Tony Ball, BSkyB’s chief exec, will argue at a conference this weekend that the government should not set a time frame for the switch-off of analog TV in Britain until the ITV carriage issue is settled. Culture minister Chris Smith is expected to outline an agenda for analog-digital change next week.

A BSkyB spokesperson said: “We hope and expect that regulators and government will urgently address the anomaly whereby Sky has to supply programming to other platforms, yet ITV can brazenly refuse to do so.”