BBC accused of trying to 'banish' rival



A new TV company hoping to offer Freeview customers 10 new subscription channels, has reported the BBC to media watchdogs accusing it of trying to strangle the new venture at birth by banishing its channels to the outer reaches of the onscreen programme guide.
Top-Up TV, formed by former BSkyB supremos David Chance and Ian West, today formally complained to Ofcom after days of negotiations over where the new channels would be electronically listed came to nothing.

The new firm, which had planned to go live by the end of next month, now fears the launch of the new service could be delayed by the latest row.

The BBC is concerned that Top-Up TV will confuse consumers attracted by the simplicity of Freeview, which offers 33 channels for a one-off fee of as little as £69, and has moved to block any integration of the two services.

At a digital television conference in October last year, the BBC's director of strategy and distribution, Carolyn Fairburn, said a pay-TV option would confuse consumers and throw "a spanner in the works".

"Our view is that this could stop Freeview in its tracks after we've only just managed to cut through the confusion," she said.

Top-Up TV is understood to have argued that both satellite and cable TV merge free to air and paid-for channels in their electronic programme listings, grouping all entertainment channels together, all sports channels together and so on.

The new venture has argued in its complaint that the BBC was present at a meeting last September when it was agreed that the EPG would follow a genre-based approach.

This would be crucial in publicising the new service because Freeview customers, of which there will be 3 million by the end of next month, would see the new channels next to their existing ones and be alerted to the existence of Top-Up TV.

"It is only in the last 10 days that the BBC has raised its objections. It's trying to banish the channels to the digital ether and anyone in multichannel knows how vital the EPG is," said one source close to the negotiations.

It is believed that ITV, Channel 4, Channel Five and Crown Castle, the transmission business that launched Freeview in conjunction with the BBC, have no objection to Top-Up TV's plans.


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I have to agree with the BBC on this one, so do the 3 million subscribers who have taken up Freeview have to suffer a load of unobtainable channels in their listings? To put up Sky digital platform as an example of how well it works for the FTV viewers is a tad laughable, you can pass through several channels before you find one that you can view..

The other factor is that with the introduction of pay channels, it is less likely that potential new channels will want to join the Freeview package, but opt for the pay side. ?They won't succeed, but it will inevitably slow down the progress of the FTA side, due to a lack of fresh blood.