TV Soccer Blackout



Thousands of fans face a Scottish football blackout after the BBC decided to switch off its digital satellite coverage.

An estimated one million viewers watching BBC Scotland will lose the digital satellite coverage of the SPL from next weekend.

Digital satellite viewers tuning into live Scottish football on BBC Scotland will see a message saying their service is unavailable, to avoid a legal dispute with pay-per-view broadcaster Setanta. .

The move has come after the BBC decided to stop using Sky Digital technology to encrypt its channels, a move expected to save £85 million over five years.

The encryption system lets BBC regional content be distributed to the right parts of the country so that Scottish viewers could only view BBC Scotland.

However, under the new arrangements, uses a different satellite system that broadcasts throughout the UK and Ireland

It means that BBC Scotland is available free throughout the UK and Ireland through any digital satellite set-top box without a viewing card.

Setanta complained that the decision breached its exclusive rights to show Scottish games live to the UK and Ireland, forcing the BBC to black out live Scottish games on its digital service.

Viewers of terrestrial services, including Freeview, will not be affected.

The Irish-based broadcaster had reached an agreement with the SPL last year to pay £2.8 million for the privilege of screening BBC Scotland's 38 live games per season plus 18 exclusive live matches to the UK.

BBC Scotland's digital live football switch-off will affect thousands of Scots who get poor or no terrestrial TV signal, mainly in the Highlands and islands although there are blackspots in rural areas across Scotland.

Martin Rose, chairman of the Scottish Federation of Football Supporters Clubs, said: "People who rely on watching football on TV and have poor reception are going to be disadvantaged."

A spokesman for BBC Scotland said: "I understand it affects people in rural areas but we are trying to do the best by everyone. Hopefully, most people will switch to analogue or use Freeview or cable."