The Media in the Press 1.4.10

Second year Journalism student, Alan Robertson, of Strathclyde University, takes a look at the media stories making it into the pages of today’s papers…

Following an investigation stretching three years, broadcasting regulators, Ofcom, has reached a decision and it is not the one BSkyB had hoped for.

The broadcaster must cut the price it charges to rivals to broadcast Sky Sports channels, by more than 20 per cent – the regulator has ruled.

Says the watchdog widely in today’s papers: “Today’s decisions are designed to ensure fair and effective competition which should lead to greater investment, innovation and choice for consumers.”

Safe to say that view is not shared by The Scottish Sun, part of the BSkyB empire. Says this morning’s editorial: “Labour have decided Sky must hand over its content cheaply to rivals who have never taken Sky’s risks to revolutionise TV sport.”

Under the headline, ‘You Spoilsports’ (page 8), the red-top also features warnings from sporting bodies that have hit out at the decision, saying it will reduce the price of their television rights and subsequently affect grassroots development.

However, the move is likely to go down well with sports fans who can now look forward to the prospect of cheaper access to the likes of English Premier League football, cricket and rugby.

‘Sky’s Limit: £17 A Month’, reads the Daily Record (page 23). “The move could pave the way for price cuts for armchair fans, with Virgin and BT hinting at bargain deals which could force Sky to reduce their own rates,” writes the Record’s Josie Clarke.

Similarly, the Scottish Daily Mail (page 19) says viewers could enjoy top sports for as little as £15 a month compared to the current £25.50 that Sky is charging.

In today’s The Scotsman (page 10), a spokeswoman for the Consumer Focus watchdog is quoted as saying: “Sky has transformed millions of viewers’ experience of sport, but there are also real concerns about whether it has now too much power in the pay-TV market and has inhibited the development of rival TV platforms.

“We welcome Ofcom’s moves to ensure fair and effective competition, which we hope will lead to more choice, further innovation and lower prices,” she added.

Yesterday’s ruling, while welcomed by and large by Sky’s competitors, has faced certain criticisms. Says the Scottish Daily Express (page 76): “BT and Virgin Media said the plans did not go far enough in loosening the satellite broadcaster’s grip on premium programming such as sport and movies.”

Turning to BSkyB itself and the broadcaster has said it will lodge an appeal with the Competition Appeal Tribunal to ward off what it called “unprecedented and unwarranted intervention”, reports The Times (page 63).

Added Jeremy Darroch, BSkyB chief executive: “The prices we charge are fair, they’re fair for customers and they’re fair for the companies that we supply our channels to.”

The Independent weighs up whether the move will drive English football talent overseas (page 15), while the paper's columnist – David Prosser (page 55) – struggles to sympathise with Sky over the decision. “Sky deserves applause for the hugely impressive business it has built, but it is not entitled to expect to maintain its monopoly forever,” writes Prosser.

Failing to share the same outlook, assistant media editor of the Daily Telegraph (Business, page 5), Neil Midgley, says sarcastically: “Why not just nationalise BSkyB and have done with it?’”

And fellow Telegraph writer, Jeremy Warner, turns the debate on old 'Auntie'. Says Warner: “For the media, the problem is not the cost of a Sky football match, but a tax-funded BBC sitting there slap-bang in the middle stifling all bio-diversity around it…”

Other media stories:

* A senior executive at the BBC has spoken of a “meeting culture” at the Corporation, possibly in part due to the “risk averse nature” of employees – The Daily Telegraph (page 13).

* Another BBC executive moved salary bands in an effort to ‘hide the number of staff earning more than £100,000’, reports The Times (page 7).

* BBC presenter, Jonathan Ross, faces criticism for swearing at a charity gala for Great Ormond Street Hospital – Scottish Daily Mail (page 9).

* Several of today’s newspapers cast an eye over some of the best Desert Island Discs’ episodes after the BBC announced plans to re-run old classics from the radio show – The Scottish Sun (page 36), Scottish Daily Express (page 36-37), Scottish Daily Mail (page 15).