The battle between BT and BSkyB which has been raging for seven years already, has been brought into the headlines yet again over the status of the court case.
BT have been challenging BSkyB and their restrictive attitude towards rival pay-TV companies offering their sports channels. Now, following a successful case at the Court of Appeal, BT have taken the case to a competition tribunal.
“The telecoms giant appealed against a decision by the Competition Appeals Tribunal. The CAT had struck out an order by the communications watchdog Ofcom that said BSkyB had to offer Sky Sports to rivals at a lower price.
The Court of Appeal however sent the case back to the CAT today after it made ‘errors of law that mean the judgment cannot be upheld’. The panel of three appeal judges found the CAT failed to appreciate the importance of Ofcom’s conclusion that BSkyB’s wholesale pricing structure itself caused ‘competition concerns’.
BT’s victory is the latest round of a battle dating back to 2007, several years before it mounted an all-out assault on BSkyB with the launch of BT Sport. At the time it was dipping a toe in the waters of television with its BT Vision set-top box and wanted to offer Sky Sports as part of the package.
After a three-year investigation, Ofcom ordered BSkyB to cut its prices in 2010, prompting four years of court battles so far. Virgin Media had also complained about Sky Sports prices.
BT said the Court of Appeal’s decision would give it the chance to raise the current issue of its failure to secure a wholesale deal to offer Sky Sports to subscribers who have its more modern YouView set-top box, which was introduced last year alongside BT Sport.
The rivals have both said they want to do a deal but have failed to agree reciprocal wholesale terms for Sky Sports and BT Sport.
A BT spokesman said: ‘We are glad that this issue will now be considered afresh and are hopeful that the outcome will finally deliver increased competition in pay TV which would be in the best interests of consumers.
‘BT remains unable to offer Sky Sports 1 and 2 on its most important TV service YouView. Sky’s refusal to offer access to these channels on reasonable terms causes serious harm to consumers and must be resolved urgently.’
The decision was also welcomed by regulators, who have been frustrated by the legal quagmire and were embarrassed by the CAT’s original finding against them.
An Ofcom spokesman said: ‘Ensuring fair and effective competition in the pay TV market has always been Ofcom’s objective.
‘Ofcom’s 2010 decision that Sky must offer premium sports channels to other providers was designed to deliver choice and innovation to consumers through greater competition.’
The Government is currently preparing laws that would restrict the rights of companies to appeal against regulatory decisions.
A BSkyB spokesman said: “This does not alter in any way the CAT’s fundamental findings, overturning Ofcom, that Sky engaged constructively with other distributors over the supply of its premium sports channels, and that Virgin Media is able to compete effectively with Sky on the basis of Sky’s rate card prices.
‘Sky continues to believe that Ofcom’s 2010 decision is flawed and that the WMO obligation ought properly to be removed, and will continue to pursue all available options to achieve this aim.’”
This article was originally published at: The Telegraph.