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Paying Sky for free public service television channels

Try this: pop out to Tesco and when you get to the checkout, demand that they pay you to take the goods away. When they ask why, say "I work for Sky".

Try this: pop out to Tesco and when you get to the checkout, de
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Whilst I was at the Edinburgh Television Festival once, waiting for a lecture from the Minister for Fun, I was chatting to a co-attendee.

During the conversation he told me a rather jolly marketing anecdote.

There are three DIY shops on a high street, all selling hammers. The one on the left, wanting to increase sales puts a big sign up in the window: "ALL HAMMERS 50% OFF".

The shop on the left, not wanting all the custom to go the competitor, ups the ante. "ALL HAMMERS HALF PRICE".

And the shop in the middle, what banner does it put up?

people out shopping on escalator


I was remind of that when I read recently the article, Channel 4 and ITV challenge Sky over data it gleans about their shows - Media - , and considered the amount Sky charges, and the channels people actually watch.

For example, almost three quarters of viewing of TV channels is to free-to-air channels provided by the main public service broadcasters, the BBC, ITV plc, STV, UTV, S4C, Channel 4 and Channel 5.

No subscription or other ongoing payment is required to watch these channels. (Figures from BARB, July 2011 Monthly Total Viewing Summary).

However, the next set of channels do cost if you have Sky. The "platform access cost" is £234, and for the full range of non-premium channels, it is £294 a year.

The Sky Sports channels (viewing share 2.7%) cost an extra £243 each year. The Sky Movies channels (viewing share 1.5%) costs an extra £192 a year.

However, the final 5.8% of viewing is of free-to-air channels:

Sky's charges to other broadasters

So, you would think that Sky would be very grateful to the public service broadcasters, because all their content is what people actually watch most of the time. All the public service broadcasts on satellite are using transponders the broadcasters have obtained directly from SES Astra - Sky do not own the satellites, they also rent their capacity from SES Astra.

However, as Mike Dimmick (thanks) points out, after looking at this - BSkyB and SSSL Published Price List - 30 October 2009 this is what Sky charges (yes, CHARGES) the BBC to list their free-to-air programmes in the "Sky Guide":

EPG listing charge: £21,000 per TV channel per year, £16k per radio channel per year. The BBC list 11 TV channels excluding the 20 regional variations of BBC One and Two, and 18 radio channels. That's £231k for the non-regional plus £420k for the regional slots, and £288k for the radio stations, £939k total.

Then there's a 'Platform Contribution Charge' which seems to be set on viewership. For the BBC:

  • BBC News Channel £994,310
  • BBC1 £4,771,505
  • BBC2 £1,261,600
  • BBC3 £994,310
  • BBC4 £310,055
  • CBBC £342,130
  • Cbeebies £737,715

BBC Alba, BBC Parliament, BBC HD and BBC One HD presumably pay the £92k 'Other Television Channels' charge and the 18 radio stations the £6k charge. Total £9,887,625.

The BBC is probably paying Sky in the region of £11-12m for EPG services.

In most businesses, it is the business that has to pay for the data it uses. Newspapers don't charge the journlists for their reports. Marketing companies have to pay for address lists. You don't get paid a pound-a-minute for calling 118118. How Sky get away with this outrage is a very good question.

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Tuesday, 30 August 2011

1:27 PM

trevorjharris: "Actually Freesat is dependent on Sky for their EPG infrastructure so do have to pay Sky for those services. "

I'm sorry, but that is 100% inaccurate. The Freesat EPG broadcasts are independent from the Sky EPG, it is a totally different service.

For one thing, the Freesat EPG has full radio channel listing!

The delays to Freesat are caused by Sky using "technical difficulties" excuses (as they always do) because they have to "approve" the Freesat EPG datastream when it appears on one of the transponders they manage.

You should not too that the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 all have to carry the full-Sky now-and-next-and-a-bit EPG on their own transponders at their cost, even though they are handing over millions of quid to Sky.

(The full Sky EPG is on the "default transponder", which is why you can't view TV and see the full EPG on "classic" Sky boxes).

I don't know about Virgin, I don't have any evidence of the situation either way.

"The only reason for any free to air channel being on the Sky EPG is that there is a profit in doing so."

Agreed, and it's for Sky.

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Briantist's 38,910 posts GB flag

2:40 PM


The Freesat EPG and MHEG data streams have to go though Sky's adaptation hub where it is multipexed with Sky's own data streams. Sky quite correctly have a quality control procedure to implement changes. This did at one time slow down the Freesat expansion.

We all saw what happened when the BBC changed it's HD transponder to DVB-S2 without adaquate quality control. Thousands were left without service.

From this point of view Freesat is very dependent on Sky. Infact without Sky Freesat would never have happened it would just be too expensive to setup an independent service.

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trevorjharris's 367 posts GB flag
Martin jeeves
4:56 PM
Newport Pagnell

I have a ross freesat box and have linked it up to a unused sky dish works very well apart from one thing bbc hd channel has a weak signal so cannot receive anything on bbc hd any ideas should I build the dish that came with the ross box and use that ,could the old sky dish be out of date been up outside the house unused for more than 11 years thanks for any help

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Martin jeeves's 2 posts GB flag
Martin's: mapM's Freeview map terrainM's terrain plot wavesM's frequency data M's Freeview Detailed Coverage
5:11 PM

Yes, we all have to pay the BBC license fee but that really shouldn't mean that the BBC should pay to have its services broadcast and listed on the Sky EPG. Surely they should just make sure that the broadcasts and EPG information is available to Sky to take up at their own choice. If they choose not to (a perfectly reasonable business decision that they can make) then it is up to the Sky subscribers to force the issue.

£11m seems a ridiculous amount to have to pay.

And if Sky refuse, sky subscribers still have the option of using a free service (freeview / freesat) in addition to their sky service after all.

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Colin's 1 post GB flag
Colin's: mapC's Freeview map terrainC's terrain plot wavesC's frequency data C's Freeview Detailed Coverage
5:21 PM

Martin jeeves: The Ross box is not Freesat, but generic free-to-air (FTA). It doesn't update channel changes like a Freesat bo,x, but it will receive the BBC HD channels if it's an HD box so you need to edit the BBC transponder (10847V) with the new symbol rate (23000) and re-scan it.

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Tom's 1 post GB flag
Thursday, 1 September 2011
9:55 PM

Can we please stop the nonsense about the license fee being a payment to the BBC. It is a tax which goes to the UK government. The UK government like to dress it up as a payment to the BBC for obvious reasons. If it wasn't a tax then the BBC could choose what to do with it and my guess is that it wouldn't include the World Service or subsidising broadband to the shires or all the other myriad purposes for which the telecommunication tax is used.

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SeaBee's 11 posts GB flag
Friday, 2 September 2011
8:38 AM

I agree most vehemently with Briantist and am the first to admit to a visceral loathing of Murdoch and Sky who single handedly have turned the Premier League into the cash obsessed obscenity it now is. I stronly object to the licence fee being used to contribute to Sky's profits for a service that they should be paying for.

Additionally, is it right that Sky should dominate HD output to the extent that even the ITV satellite channels HD content is only available on Sky leaving only the two BBC and main ITV channels as free to view ?

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technophobe's 6 posts PT flag

9:19 PM

While the Licence Fee is effectively a tax, the Government hand it all to the BBC. It is to fund a Public Service therefore it is right that the public should have a say in it's output, currently through the BBC trust. The system may not be perfect, and should always be open to public debate, but the BBC is by far the best quality broadcast organisation in the World. I detest Adverts.

The Government lay down PSB service requirements, including levels of news, current affairs, proportion of original domestically produced programming and a requirement to cover 98.5% of the UK population by terrestrial broadcast, and availability on other platforms. This is why the BBC pay the Platform Contribution Charge. I do agree it is obscene for Sky to be allowed to charge for this though.

The Government DO NOT have a direct influence on BBC programming. Parliament and individual MPs do of course (quite rightly) comment.

The BBC World Service is directly funded by the UK government NOT the Licence fee. It does seem reasonable that they should proscribe the service levels (but not the programme content!)


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chrisw's 21 posts GB flag
chrisw's: mapC's Freeview map terrainC's terrain plot wavesC's frequency data C's Freeview Detailed Coverage
Sunday, 4 September 2011

5:40 PM


The BBC has to pay Arqiva for the distribution and transmission of the terestrial channels why shouldn't they pay Sky for EPG transmission.

You say "the BBC is by far the best quality broadcast organisation in the World". I totally disagree as the BBC has been deteriating over the last few years. The BBC schedule is now largely repeats. The News reporting is now at the lowest standard I have ever seen it. Quality sport is almost non existant except for what is obtained on the cheap by the protected right laws. Very little original drama now as well. As for adverts I record most programs and just skip the adverts.

The new licence fee arrangment will mean that the Licence fee will be paid for by the licence fee.

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trevorjharris's 367 posts GB flag

6:40 PM


The BBC were caught out by HD an totally misread HD demand and still many programs are not in HD. The BBC were also slow in adopting wide screen. The BBC prefered to spend our money on a massive building program and the legacy DAB radio system. BBC One HD was not planned to start till 2012 and BBC news will not go HD till 2013. When colour was introduced there was a big increase in the licence fee to pay for it but not for HD.

ITV's decision to provide some HD channels as pay tv was mainly financial. Freeview HD only covers part of the country and there will be no more room on terestrial till 2016 in any case. The majority of viewers on satellite are Sky subscribers and they get the ITV HD channels at no extra cost.

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trevorjharris's 367 posts GB flag
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