Sky TV (BSkyB) have applied to Ofcom to remove

their three free-to-air channels, Sky News, Sky Sports News and Sky Three, from Freeview (Digital Terrestrial Television, DTT) to replace them with five pay TV channels. This will also require new Freeview equipment for those wishing to subscribe.

I don’t mind Freeview having subscription services on it – indeed, if it did, there would be even less argument than ever for the unique way the BBC is funded by the tellytax rather than through subscriber choice*.

The issue, of course, is that removing Sky News from the free-to-air channels on Freeview will be a serious blow to consumer choice and broadcasting competition, leaving only the BBC providing readily available rolling news coverage on Freeview.

Therefore, Biased BBC calls upon everyone who cares about our democracy and freedom of choice in news services on Freeview to object to this proposal, at least in so far as it affects the availability of Sky News on Freeview.

More details about the proposals are available from Ofcom in the form of an Executive Summary and a PDF of the full proposal.

There are several ways to respond, probably the easiest being online using Ofcom’s online response form. It’s not necessary to answer all of the questions.

* Not surprisingly, when Freeview came into being, the BBC, acting in its own narrow self-interest as usual (rather than the public interest you would expect of a tax-funded public service), ensured that there was no requirement in the Freeview standard for Freeview boxes to have provision for subscription services – with the result that many current boxes aren’t subscription capable. (Though what the BBC didn’t bargain on of course is that the price of Freeview equipment has fallen so dramatically that their self-interested ‘fixing’ of the standard is rapidly ceasing to be a valid objection to the BBC becoming a subscription service).

Thank you to Biased BBC reader Ali P.

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45 Responses to Sky TV (BSkyB) have applied to Ofcom to remove

  1. Anonymous says:

    maybe those who wish to buy subscription boxes can do when Al Beeb is privatised and we all receive our windfall

    i remember getting 54 quid when the gas was privatised

    i live in hope


  2. Pete says:

    I will not be objecting to Sky’s proposal. I think it is a good thing. It will most probably attract more TV viewers to subscription services. The more people who pay a voluntary subscription for TV they want the more odd an involuntary subscription to another broadcaster will seem.

    Freeview was the BBC’s big hope for the digital age. It’s all going wrong for them unless they follow the trend towards voluntary subscription. If Sky gets its way, ordinary Freeview boxes will become little more than a way to get the old terrestrial channels.


  3. William says:

    This is a very thinly veiled attempt to kill off Freeview. Once the Sky offerings leave there is really not much else different to watch. It reminds me of how drug dealers get you hooked cheaply take it away and/or raise the price …. certain media companies seem to be doing the same, take away the channels forcing people to migrate to the more expensive offering. As Freeview ends up as only BBC, ITV C4 & 5, less people will take it up and they will raise subscription costs and hosting costs for the other stations … have to admit it is Machiavellian genius.


  4. Roland Thompson-Gunner says:

    I don’t quite see the logic here. The argument against the licence fee is that without it there would be a free market. Sky wanting to quit Freeview is just the market at work, surely?


  5. Andrew says:

    For those who are confused about this issue, barring an unseen upheaval of some sort, the tellytax is not going to be going away before 2016 at the earliest.

    The preservation of a choice of news channels i.e. Sky News, rather than just BBC News 24, on Freeview is important to prevent the BBC’s existing dominance of UK broadcasting and, in particular, the UK news agenda, from becoming worse.

    Simple really. If you want a choice of news channels on Freeview then you need to oppose this move, at least in that regard. If you don’t care and you want the BBC to be the sole provider of rolling news to large swathes of the UK then fine, sit back and do nothing, secure in the knowledge that in 2016 our, by then, long established national news monopoloy will be fully in favour of continuing the unique way the BBC is funded…


  6. Martin says:

    Then perhaps Sky should get some of theBBC’s teletax money to continue to provide Sky News free?

    Why should someone who pays nothing towards Sky get any free channels?


  7. The Fat Contractor says:

    Freeview already does carry subsciption only channels, UKTV Gold for example. There are other channels that come up as ‘encrypted feed’ on my digibox. So what’s the big deal? In four years time (ish) everything will be digital and we’ll have the same free channels that we have always had. If you want to subscribe you have to get another box, that’s always been the case.

    Don’t think that Murdoch’s Sky is any better than the BBC, if anything Murdoch’s venal anti-British & anti-Monarchy views are just as bad as the BBC’s all pervasive leftism. Murdoch has been a prime player in the slow degredation of this country’s culture and the less we see of his output the better IMHO.

    BTW the only upside for Murdoch is one has a choice about whether or to to pay for his crap channels.


  8. David Gregory (BBC) says:

    Andrew: Its worth pointing out the subscription based model for terrestrial digital was the basis of the failed OnDigital/ITV Digital debacle. Tasked by the Government to save digital terrestrial the BBC did exactly that.
    Now I won’t deny that you could argue Greg Dyke was very clever in that the side effect of Freeview was millions of digital boxes incapable of receiving subscription channels. On the other hand the BBC made digital terrestrial work where ITV didn’t. The market failed, and the BBC provides a popular solution.
    What is Sky up to now? Well in business terms its clear they are shaken by the success of Freeview which causes problems for their subscription based digital model. So they are taking their ball away *cough* sorry, they are increasing viewer choice with exciting new subscription based opportunities.
    I say complain away! But Ofcom can be a funny beast…


  9. Andrew says:

    David G.: “the subscription based model for terrestrial digital was the basis of the failed OnDigital/ITV Digital debacle”

    The spending of zillions on football matches that no one wanted to watch (and pay for) was the failing of ITV Digital, as I recall, was it not? An example of the market working one could say.

    It’s a pity that the BBC doesn’t have the same confidence in its own ability to produce material that people want and choose to pay for…

    As for those going on about whether Sky is free or not, this is not about funding models – this is about having a choice of news providers on the most widespread free-to-air (note the last two words) television platform in the UK – a choice that would otherwise be any flavour you want, so long as it’s BBC – a situation that’s not good for us, not good for our democracy and, as it happens, not good for the BBC either (the first two being what matters).


  10. David Gregory (BBC) says:

    Andrew. I’m sure the BBC would agree! This is all very much Sky’s baby. But it’s the market in action, how can we object?


  11. Anon says:

    How is anything the BBC is involved in “the market in action”?


  12. Andrew says:

    Ah well David, we can object on the basis that markets must have rules to ensure that they serve the public interest rather than monopoly interests.

    The problem in UK broadcasting of course is that it is already dominated by a large predatory company, a monopoly with a guaranteed income of £3.5 billion per annum (involuntarily paid), a company that distorts the UK broadcasting market unfairly. (Does this ring any bells by the way? 🙂

    An example of market failure to which we, as responsible citizens, must object!


  13. Anonymous says:

    David Gregory: What a load of nonsense. THe BBC started broadcasting HD TV. But you have to pay for either a Sky HD subscription or cable. What a cheek.

    Freeview HD TV is years away.


  14. APL says:

    David Gregory: ¨The market failed, and the BBC provides a popular solution.¨

    The market did not fail! The BBC is a distortion of ¨the market¨ no one else in ¨the market¨ can force an individual to pay a fee on pain of being thrown in prison.

    Such a thing is not ¨the market¨ such a thing is a denial of free choice. To claim that a monopoly operator is representative of ¨the market¨ is to show ignorance of the higest order.

    That assumes ignorance on the part of David Gregory, rather than malicious intent.

    Draw your own conclusions.


  15. APL says:

    David Gregory:¨Well in business terms its clear they are shaken by the success of Freeview..¨

    Now let me see. There are plenty of people out there who are prepared to pay over £30 pounds per month to see Sky content – come to that Virgin as telewest is now.

    David Gregory: ¨So they [SKY] are taking their ball away *cough* sorry,¨

    David, really. You ought to be able to do better than that?


  16. David Gregory (BBC) says:

    Andrew, Anon, APL: Erm so was OnDigital, the purely market driven solution to making digital terrestrial work a success? No. It failed.
    The BBC was told to make it work and it did. And now Sky are worried and want to change the rules. Now it’s up to the market and Ofcom to decide the winner…

    Anonymous (I do wish people would pick and use names on here!) If you want HDTV from the BBC you don’t pay extra on the Licence Fee. But I’m afraid you do have to pay for the equipment to get it. The BBC won’t buy your TV and if you want HDTV you need an HDTV TV and a receiver. Cable or Sky. As for Freeview? Well we conducted trials on HDTV on Freeview. HD programmes would be rebroadcast in the night, using the bandwidth of several channels and you could set your PVR to record them. Perhaps not an elegant solution, but still a clever way or getting HDTV via your TV ariel. I’m not sure given the current cuts where this idea now is. Sorry.

    APL: Why do you think Sky want to push for a subscription based platform on terrestrial digital?

    PS What’s up with Papa Bear this evening? Tetchy broadcast!


  17. Reg Hammer says:

    David, I’m getting increasingly concerned about your postings. Not only are you posting later and later out of business hours, you are posting more and more about topics outside of your specialized knowledge.

    You’re becoming obsessed with defending the BBC.

    Surely they don’t pay THAT well, do they?


  18. Pete says:

    How clever of Sky to let their channels on to Freeview and then remove them. Once people see channels disappearing they’ll become suspicious of the Freeview platform and see it for what it really is – just an extra box for the same old channels, plus repeats and channels consisting entirely of adverts.


  19. Anonymous says:


    itv digital failed because they bid to much for football no one wanted to watch, simple as that, it wasnt a market failure in true sense, either side could have backed down, but they got greedy…just like Al Beeb, you will go the same way in the end, i just hope ur mortgage is paid off by then

    peace x


  20. rightofcentre says:

    From what I know of this issue, even a freeview box with a pay to view slot will not be able to receive the Sky services, as they are proposing to broadcast them in MPEG4 format.
    I believe all current freeview boxes use MPEG2.


  21. Roland Thompson-Gunner says:

    Even if Sky News is on Freeview, in what sense is it free? Every time anyone buys any product advertised on it, they are making a compulsory contribution (albeit individually tiny) to the cost of broadcasting Sky News, plus a cut on top for Mr Murdoch’s profits.


  22. Blithering Bunny says:

    “Even if Sky News is on Freeview, in what sense is it free?”

    It’s free in the sense that it’s, erm… free.

    “Every time anyone buys any product advertised on it, they are making a compulsory contribution (albeit individually tiny) to the cost of broadcasting Sky News”

    Nope. It isn’t a compulsory anything, because you don’t have to buy any product advertised on it. No-one’s forcing you to.

    And if you do buy it, you pay your money for *that* product. And you think the product is worth that amount of money, otherwise you wouldn’t voluntarily exchange your money for it. What the seller does with the money is another matter.

    (That doesn’t mean you’re aren’t entitled to not buy a product because you don’t like what you know the seller will do with the money, but that’s not the same as there being any element of compulsion when you do buy a product).

    Remember also that advertising costs are still costs. If you didn’t advertise the product at all, then in most cases that product would fail. The advertising is deemed necessary to make the product viable in the marketplace. It’s juts as much a cost as the cost of the labour.


  23. Roland Thompson-Gunner says:

    If you buy the product, you are making a compulsory contribution towards the cost of advertising that product. We all do this to a massive scale, I would bet waaaaaay more than 135 quid a year per head.

    I will admit to sometimes not buying a product because the advertising puts my teeth on edge.


  24. Blithering Bunny says:

    Roland, I’ve just explained why it isn’t compulsory. You appear to be too dim to understand even the concept of compulsion, but I will retract my statement if you can point to any evidence of compulsion in regard to products advertised on Sky, eg. laws, by-laws, letters from government agencies or government-authorized agencies asking you to make the payment, bailiff’s letters, etc.


  25. David Gregory (BBC) says:

    Reg: Fair point. It was a late night on the computer and I do find this digital battle really interesting. I’ll be interested to see how Sky’s gamble works out.


  26. Roland Thompson-Gunner says:


    I’ll try to avoid demeaning myself with insults as you have.

    I can just about imagine someone living a life completely divorced from funding adverts by never buying any product which is ever advertised, on a kind of hermit-like, wholly self-sufficient basis.

    The rest of us, whether we like it or not, are compelled to fund advertising.

    Baliffs etc are irrelevant – it would take some sort of societal breakdown for the majority of people to attempt to live like this, and most wouldn’t survive.

    If you have a formula for a modern consumer existence which gets you off this hook, please share it.


  27. Blithering Bunny says:

    Roland, you have no idea what compulsion means, yet you come here lecturing us all on it. So if you don’t wish to be insulted, try reading a few textbooks on politics and economics first.

    You are compelled to fund x if it is against the law not to fund x. The BBC falls into this category for anyone who owns a TV. Buying a packet of Special K does not fall into this category. There is no law that compels you to buy Special K. There is no law that compels you to contribute to the Kellogg’s advertising budget.

    The fact that it is somewhat inevitable that a small proportion of the money that a person spends on modern consumer goods will then be put into an advertising budget is a different matter altogether. That is not compulsion. To say it is is to say that you are compelled to fund my record collection, just because you bought a bicycle off me.


  28. Martin says:

    Someone was “promoting” the BBC the other day for them being great inovators, such as with HD TV. Er, but of course if you don’t own a Sky HD box or cable you don’t get BBC HD TV.

    Nice of the BBC to steal a ride on other people’s networks (for free of course)


  29. Anon says:

    Does the BBC not have to pay for that HD channel on Sky?


  30. Pete says:

    David, at least Sky does gamble. It has to. It’s a business that needs to take care of the money it is given and to please the customer. The BBC should watch how Sky behaves very carefully. In the future it will need to learn these skills. The writing is on the wall for the 1930’s style BBC.

    From a 1990ish standing start the BBC has been comprehensively outpaced by Sky, and the sorry state of the BBC today is largely Sky’s doing.


  31. Rogg says:

    How about Sky News has to stay on Freeview, and in return they get some proportion of the license-fee?

    (I know, I know, not a possibility as the BBC has it until 2016, but it’s the sort of thing we should be suggesting for the future).


  32. Roland Thompson-Gunner says:

    I’ll try one more time. We are all effectively compelled to fund the BBC (FWIW, I’d rather it was subscription-based and if so I would gladly pay the current licence fee for radio alone, would like to be able to skip light entertainment and local programming completely, don’t feel the BBC has enough sport left to be worth paying for, etc etc.)

    We are all effectively every bit as compelled – maybe a teensiebit more – to fund advertising as a whole and thus activities funded by advertising, e.g. Sky News. Your point about individual brands is specious.


  33. Shug Niggurath says:

    The reason Sky are looking at changing the model they have for their Freeview channels is more than likely the decline in advertising reach as multi-channel TV is causing declining audiences.

    Advertising used to be the main model for commercial channels to operate and the market is now dictating that this is no longer as viable as it once was.

    You could argue that the BBC distorts this market by pulling viewers to it’s wholly funded offering in an anti-competitive way. IF BBC was able to stick to 1, 2, News and Parliament and leave the other channels to commercial operators it might be more possible for them to produce content at an acceptable cost for them to provide them for free.

    That’s a big part of my problem with BBC, not that I want it to go away, just to be less ubiquitous and liberally biased.


  34. PJF says:

    “I’ll try one more time.”

    And you’ve failed miserably once again, Roland Thompson-Gunner. This is not due to a communications difficulty; this is because your argument has absolutely no merit.

    Advertising is a normal aspect of the free-market (the free world); an almost inevitable cost to business that brings a greater return – much like having a work force. By your “reasoning”, we consumers are “compelled” to fund whatever it is the employees of the businesses we buy from spend their money on. Be it Oxfam or dog fighting.

    In fact, by your “reasoning”, every time you part with money, whether buying goods and services or making a gift of twenty quid to your niece, you are somehow “compelled” to fund the subsequent spending.

    Yours is the view of someone who has been brainwashed by socialist propaganda. It’s no surprise that this drivel is often trotted out by BBCoids and their supporters.


  35. Blithering Bunny says:

    “We are all effectively compelled to fund the BBC”

    No Roland, we TV owners not “effectively” compelled to fund the BBC, we are simply compelled. That compulsion does not exist for other products.

    If you really can’t see this, then let’s see you come up with a definition of “compel” or “compulsion” which is adequate to the language, which has the consequence that we are compelled to fund Sky News as well as the BBC, but which doesn’t descend into triviality by entailing that we are compelled to fund almost everything produced today.


  36. Pete says:

    If I am to be compelled to fund a news service by the government then I would like a choice. I’d choose Fox News. With the new digital platform there is no need for the government to insist that we fund its news as given to us via the BBC with its government appointed/approved senior staff.


  37. Reg Hammer says:

    Roland Thompson-Gunner:

    Apart from becoming a tedious dissection of semantics, I fail to see what Roland’s original point is in relation to the activities of the BBC.

    The Beeb still use vast sums of the telly tax to advertise products that by rights the public ALREADY OWN. So they are in fact fleecing us twice.

    And how on earth can he suggest – with regards to corporate advertising:
    “We all do this to a massive scale, I would bet waaaaaay more than 135 quid a year per head.”

    What £135 per product Roland? The BBC is just ONE product. If I buy cornflakes a percentage of my money doesn’t go back to Kellogs to promote just cornflakes. It will be used to promote their ENTIRE RANGE of cereals – of which there are many.

    If our telly tax – or in fact just the profits of BBC advertising itself – were being distributed among all TV broadcasters, your argument would carry weight.

    As it stands, it’s just as you accuse your detractors arguments of being – “specious”.


  38. Roland Thompson-Gunner says:

    “Effectively compelled” because no-one is compelled to own a TV, although it’s obviously an essential component of life for 99.999 per cent of the population.

    “Apart from becoming a tedious dissection of semantics, I fail to see what Roland’s original point is in relation to the activities of the BBC.”

    I joined the thread because it seems odd to see a blog focused on demanding that the BBC participate in a free market in broadcasting bleating about a move by Sky which is just the market expressing itself.

    “What £135 per product Roland? The BBC is just ONE product. If I buy cornflakes a percentage of my money doesn’t go back to Kellogs to promote just cornflakes. It will be used to promote their ENTIRE RANGE of cereals – of which there are many.”

    My point is that over the course of a year the portion of my (or your) household’s expenditure which goes to fund advertising might well top the 135.00 we are (effectively) obliged to pay to fund tbe BBC.

    A back of the envelope sum. The joint monthly credit card bill for Mrs T-G and me is typically just under 2K. Add cash purchases and we are well over 24K a year, for ease of maths let’s say 27K. Nearly all of it will go on products/to suppliers which are advertised in one format or another.

    If just 0.5 per cent of our overall consumer spending over a year goes to the advertising budget of the products we buy/suppliers we buy from, it is costing us as much as the licence fee.

    And given that we want to live a modern consumption-driven lifestyle, we have no more choice about it than we do about paying the licence fee (which, as I said, I’d be happy to see replaced by a subscription so I wouldn’t have to fund Jonathan Ross if I didn’t want to.)


  39. Andy says:

    Will their advertising revenue drop when they have less viewers?


  40. Blithering Bunny says:

    Roland, you failed to provide a definition of “compulsion” which justified what you were saying, and instead continued to ramble on with a lot of old 60’s-style undergraduate tosh. I daresay that a not-inconsiderable sum of my money goes every year to fund record company executives getting blow-jobs from hookers, but it’s idiotic to say that I’m being forced to fund this.

    I look forward to hearing how “We’re all really imprisoned, aren’t we man, even though there aren’t visible bars around us, there are bars in our minds that are just as effective, like wow, that is so mind-blowing”.


  41. Lee Moore says:

    I thoroughly disapprove of this campaign to compel Sky to provide free services to people. I fail to see any meaningful distinction between this and the (successful) campaign to compel me to provide money to the BBC. I don’t believe that anyone here has an objection to the existence of a broadcasting organisation, called the BBC, with a strong bias to the left. Does anyone object to the existence of the Guardian ? The objection is that people in general, and me in particular, are compelled by law to pay for it.


  42. The Fat Contractor says:

    Lee Moore | 28.10.07 – 12:37 pm |

    I couldn’t agree more, this whole thread seems based on the wacky premise that Freeview is something other than

    1. A means by which people with analogue TVs can view unencrypted digital channels

    2. A means by which people with digital TVs can view the ‘free’ ‘terrestial’ channels.

    Thats all Freeview is folks and come 2012 it is what we will all be using if we don’t want to subscribe to Virgin or Sky. (NB I’m deliberately ignoring TopUpTV and its 3 subscribers as I can’t see its stupid model lasting the year.)

    Murdoch’s shenannigens with his channels is just the Free Market at play. Isn’t that what we want? Or have we changed our minds about the BBC being let loose on the market sans tax?


  43. Roland Thompson-Gunner says:

    [Roland, you failed to provide a definition of “compulsion” which justified what you were saying]

    Try “something which one has no choice but to do”. Fund advertising budgets on the one hand, and on the other (to a minutely lesser degree) pay for the BBC through a licence fee.


  44. Blithering Bunny says:

    You didn’t even think it through, did you? I buy lots of goods, but I don’t pay for any advertising budgets. Neither do you. Check your credit card receipts. None of them will say anything like “Payment extracted for Kellogs’ advertising budget October 2007” (let alone “Compulsory payment extracted for Kellogs’ advertising budget October 2007″). And if any companies asked me to fund their advertising budgets I would decline. So I do have a choice.

    All you mean is that the money you spend on goods is then used *by others* to fund advertising budgets. But that’s a completely different matter. They fund these budgets with *their* money. It’s not your money any more at that stage. It’s a free society, and in a free society people to get to spend their money on what they want. You don’t get to decide what other people spend their money on, because that would be a restriction on their freedom, just as it would be if they got to stop you buying things they didn’t like.


  45. PJF says:

    “And given that we want to live a modern consumption-driven lifestyle…”

    Without advertising?!

    This is must be parody. Or has socialism really dimmed wits this much?