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Government to stop Sky charging public service broadcasters for "retransmission"

Sky is to be forced to stop charging the public service broadcasters (ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, S4C and the BBC) for the pleasure of their customers having channels they have already paid for listed in the Sky Guide.

Sky is to be forced to stop charging the public service broadca
published on UK Free TV

Back on 29th August 2011 , UK Free TV reported about Paying Sky for free public service television channels.

A report today, Connectivity, Content and Consumers Britain's digital platform for growth [pdf] from the Department for Culture Media and Sport says that Sky's "retransmission fees" must stop.

Update: The BBC, ITV, STV, UTV, S4C, Channel 4 and Channel 5 all have contracts with the satellite owners, SES Astra to carry their channels on satellite.

The phrase "retransmission fees" is an allusion to the position in the USA, where cable and satellite gatekeepers pay the broadcasters for their content.

However, this dispute is over Sky charging the above programme creators and providers to have their programmes listed in the Sky Electronic Programme Guide. Sky does not in any sense transmit, or retransmit BBC, ITV, STV, UTV, S4C, Channel 4 and Channel 5 channels.

The public service broadcasters:

Channel 4 (see Channel 4 would like to turn Sky "retransmission fees" into programming);

the BBC (The BBC wants to stop paying Sky ten million pounds a year for EPG listing and BBC may charge Sky for content as retransmission fee row escalates - Media - )

ITV (see ITV backs retransmission fee review - News - Broadcast)

all believe Sky are abusing their satellite-gatekeeper position, which much political agreement.

The DCMS document says:

Access to Public Service programmes

PSB channels are brought to our living rooms by various TV platforms, such as Freeview, Sky, Virgin, and Freesat. Platforms benefit from having must-see content distributed across their services, while broadcasters benefit from having access to mass market audiences. But there is a growing debate around the payments that are made between broadcasters and platforms.

The Government wants to see zero net charges, where the fees for access to the main platforms and for PSB channels cancel each other out. This is not too far removed from the current market position, and recognises the benefits to platforms, the PSBs, and audiences from being able to access award winning, PSB content.

This mirrors the arrangement already in place for PSBs and cable platforms, where no charges are made - an arrangement that we want to see preserved. We are looking closely at how we can help achieve this without allowing other kinds of online services to exploit PSB content, with no benefit flowing to the PSB. We will launch a consultation on this in the autumn, before bringing forward legislative proposals if required.

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.

Sky has already cut the costs - Sky halves EPG charges for public service broadcasters and saves BBC local radio.

See also DCMS to abolish retransmission fees - News - Broadcast.

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Friday, 2 August 2013

12:25 AM

Briantist: I could not agree more with your view of PSB and what it delivers.

I was going to ask those Sky fans the question of who would lose more if the BBC was not on Sky, but trevorharris did it for me. I come to an entirely different conclusion.

Most Sky subscribers (around 70%) have access to Freeview How many Freeview, Freesat, Sky and cable homes are there in the UK? | About us | - 11 years of independent, free digital TV advice (here in East Anglia, Sky or Freesat was the only way to get digital TV until switchover for many, and I suspect this might have happened in other places too), although they chose to use Sky for viewing everything.

I also suspect that most watch often pretty much what most people watch on Freeview - Strictly, X factor, the Olympics, that new BBC/ITV Drama, Dr Who, CBBC, etc. In fact, I've been trying to find out what percentage of PSB the 'average' Sky subscriber actaully watches, but there is seemingly no available data - I wonder if its as small as people maintain it is?

If the BBC was no longer carried by Sky, what would happen? Apart from Sky subscribers being up in arms at not being to find BBC channels on their EPG, and the cries of the Murdoch press, would all subscribers continue with only Sky products? In many cases, I suspect not.

If the BBC disappeared from Sky, that would be the tipping point for many of my customers, who resent the cost of Sky, yet seldom use many of the extra channels on offer. Certainly a fair number have moved over to Freesat, and 70% plus of them in theory would have the immediate alternative of Freeview.

Its true that Sky have premiere films and sports, plus Game of Thrones, True Blood, Mad Men etc(although a far smaller audience than was on BBC2) - but you pay possibly a lot for that and still have to watch adverts.

I was interested to look at a thread on Mumsnet on Sky
To not understand why people pay for sky? (full thread) |
Mumsnet Discussion
. If you get a good package deal, fine, and if you really must have Dexter, Bones, etc, than thats up to you, its your money. But if your not into sport, or exclusive to Sky programmes, is it a must have? Many people on that site seemed unaware that Freesat uses exactly the same dish as Sky, and were under the impression that Sky+ was the only way to record - at £50 a month, your even in less than six months if you go to Freesat or Freeview.

For many, the bundle of phone, broadband, etc creates inertia, and so they stay Sky subscribers, but if costs rise, they have no special interest in films or sport and the services they want are not available, then they might well jump. Sky plus is no longer the only PVR in town.

The BBC brings in viewers to Sky, and to lose it would be serious for them. The BBC frankly should have stopped paying for the EPG years ago, since the power was with them, not Sky. And its interesting to note that the cost of the BBC's charges over a decade (£6m per year) would basically pay for BBC4 for a year - a channel which almost certainly makes far more original UK content than the whole of Sky.

The comparison with Ondigital does not hold water - it was a technical and commercial mess from the start, and of course BSkyB ran aggressive loss-leaders to gain market share (we wont go into the pirated cards !). Digital TV becomes a viable reality when the BBC becomes involved.

As for the Olympics, both sides came out well - Virgin/Sky got the 24 HD/SD streams and the red button, and the BBC got the extra capacity for a special event. Quid Pro Quo...

I don't love everything about the BBC and the PSB (although the 20% overspend on the new Broadcasting House is not unusual in the private sector either, and its an awkward site), but overall, it delivers generally quality stuff for a reasonable price.

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MikeB's 2,579 posts GB flag

11:02 AM

I said that Freesat is totally dependent on Sky. Firsly Freesat is only an EPG it has not satellite bandwidth itself. Secondly most of the channels on Freesat are Sky free to air channels. Thirdly the BBC sends its EPG data for Sky and it is Sky that multiplexes it into the various channels.

Of course Freesat could start it's own satellite service independent of Sky. But that would mean the EPG would not appear on Sky boxes. The BBC would have to duplicate transmissions if it wants to stay on Sky with its 11.4 million subscribers. In fact any channel that wanted to be on Sky and Freesat would have to duplicate transmisions.

The reason for this is that the Freesat EPG is incompatable with Sky's EPG. Sky boxes cannot display Freesat EPG data and Freesat boxes cannot display Sky's EPG.

It is interesting to note that as far as I know it is only the red button HD service which is exclusive to Freesat. Freesats viewing numbers is still low to make exclusive Freesat channels viable.

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trevorjharris's 367 posts GB flag

11:49 AM


In my previous post I argued that sky loosing BBC would have little impact on Sky numbers. I based this on what happened when ITV refused to be on Sky. Most Tv's have a Freeview tuner so it is easy enough to see BBC programs.

I guess there may be some people with Sky who do not watch Sky channels. That is certainly not true with me. I usually watch at least 3 premiership games a week and I am also keen F1 which take up several hours of viewing over 3 days. Of course there is the Ashes at the moment. I am very keen on HD so I can watch ITV2, ITV3, ITV4, Sky News and Five in HD. I also watch some output on Atlantic, and Watch. The grand children watch some of the Sky childrens channels as well. Pepper pig seems to be the fad at the moment.

So as far as I am concerned Sky is good value for me.

I have found that my BBC viewing has droped in the last few years. Antiques Roadshow, New tricks, and one or two dramas and thats it. As I have said before BBC1 is now 65% repeats and this is meant to be thier flagship channel. Even the peak viewing slots are often repeats. Most evenings I don't watch anything on BBC.

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trevorjharris's 367 posts GB flag
Amanda Brighton
12:45 PM

So does this mean the BBC will have to wait until 2015 to stop their payments to Sky? (see trevorjharris post re. reducing payments).

I wonder why satellite PSB broadcasts still need to be maintained with the advent of DVB. Wouldn't it be easier for the money to be invested in upgrading all TV transmitters to having all multiplexes. Then it would be up to those concerned to get a wideband TV aerial.

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Amanda Brighton's 6 posts GB flag
Mike Dimmick

4:20 PM

trevorjharris: Freesat and Sky's EPGs are totally independent streams. Nothing is combined into the channel itself. The video stream and audio stream have no internal metadata; each transponder does carry a small amount of metadata in the DVB Service Information tables that are multiplexed into the content. This metadata isn't enough to present a full EPG, though - it doesn't include channel numbers and region selection, it's just enough to do Now/Next on a generic free-to-air receiver.

The actual audio and video streams for any free-to-air channel are unencrypted, and they are broadcast once only. Take a look at Astra 1N / Astra 2A / Astra 2D / Astra 2F / Eutelsat 28B (28.2°E) - All transmissions - frequencies - KingOfSat , for example. Observe that BBC Four is listed once on the entire array of transponders in the cluster of satellites at 28.2°E, where UK dishes are pointing. The Freesat and Sky EPGs both simply say, 'when the user selects BBC Four, tune to 10773 MHz, select Horizontal polarization, decode it as DVB-S with symbol rate 22000 and FEC mode 5/6, then look up Service ID 6316'.

The other columns in that table say that Service ID 6316 points to Program Map Table (PMT) 259, which says to show the video stream with ID 5200 (the VPID), get the Program Clock Reference (PCR, used to synchronize video and audio) from that stream, get audio from stream ID 5201 or 5202, and teletext from stream 5203.

This is why we say that Sky, and Freesat, and generic receivers all use *exactly the same broadcasts*. A 'generic' receiver does not understand Sky's or Freesat's EPGs: the user has to do the set-up work of assigning channel numbers to Service IDs, but once they have set it up, the only inconvenience is if a channel changes its Service ID or which transponder it's using.

The broadcasters separately and independently send their programme metadata to Sky for inclusion in their guide, and to Freesat for inclusion in *their* guide. (And to Digital UK for inclusion in the Freeview EPG.)

The broadcasters *separately* arrange their uplinks. Each transponder's signal is uplinked separately. The transponder simply receives on one frequency and transmits on another, there's no intelligence in there - which means that you can change which standard is being broadcast, as has been shown by some transponders changing from DVB-S to DVB-S2, and even direct from FM-PAL to DVB-S2.

Only those broadcasters which are actually sharing a transponder need to make any arrangements, and they generally do so between themselves. Sky only get involved because they have taken out a number of long-term leases on transponders, and then they sub-let that capacity to broadcasters and arrange multiplexing. It's usually a condition of carriage that the channel is exclusive to Sky for some period, and usually under the subscription.

However, as I said, the PSBs, for the most part, lease their own transponders directly from SES.

The big myth is that Sky is heavily involved in broadcasting from satellites and is vital to the process. It is not. All the work is being done by the broadcasters themselves. Sky is a gatekeeper to the subscription platform, nothing more - that is, they get involved in taking money from subscribers, and distributing some of it to the channels that are in the paid business.

Sky only have a free-to-air offer because they were made to. They continue to offer it because it allows them to effectively advertise all the subscription content in-line, and makes it easy for people to take out a subscription - they can simply activate the subscription virtually overnight. The subscriber boxes are basically subsidised by the 'Platform Contribution Charge' that forms the majority of the payments made by broadcasters, and which the PSBs are objecting to.

If the BBC were to leave Sky, they would save money. They would not be paying Sky for a service that they don't want and which undermines their multi-platform strategy. No other platform asks the broadcasters to contribute to subsidising boxes for subscribers to *other content*, and Sky can only get away with it because they have significant market power. While viewers can use the Other Channels feature of a Sky box, those channels aren't assigned channel numbers, and don't appear in the main channel list; nor do they show programme information and the Accurate Recording and Series Recording features of Sky+ don't work. Those are the only reasons to appear on Sky - but since not doing that effectively drops 40% of main set viewing, the BBC will never do it.

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Mike Dimmick's 2,486 posts GB flag
Steve Williams
11:09 PM

Nedbold: it is 12 million not 12 billion :-) and when you bear in mind THE VOICE was 20 million !

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Steve Williams's 13 posts EU flag

11:46 PM

trevorharris: You sound exactly the sort of customer Sky wants to appeal to, and they heavily invested in buying the sort of things you want to see - F1, cricket & football. Ultimately, thats their USP.

As far as ITV2, 3 &4,and Five the content is exactly the same as Freeview, but obviously you get HD. Sky Atlantic is one of those channels designed to appeal to me, since I do miss Mad Men, but there you are...

If you get good value for money, thats great, but for many, are those premium sports channels enough reason to stay with Sky? Of course, for many, those BBC channels are something they use, if only to get CBBC & Cbeebies (and thus avoid Peppa Pig, which used to drive me up the wall).

On the matter of repeats, 65% is the number of repeats over the whole of the BBC throughout the whole day! In reality, all channels have to repeat content, since it would be simply uneconomic to have constantly original content, even if it was suitable.

The only figures I came up with in a very quick search were these Repeat Offenders | TVGuide Blog - which are three years old. However, Sky 1 came top (or bottom, depending on your point of view), with BBC1 actually doing much better, and of course in peak, BBC1 has very few repeats (perhaps Sherlock, etc).

Looking at daytime and early evening on Sky1 today, there is a lot of old Simpsons, Glee, SG1 and various sitcoms (levened with new episodes). I don't think anyone wants to watch endless repeats, but I understand thats everyone does it, and it may be that an empirical analysis actually throws up some surprises!

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MikeB's 2,579 posts GB flag
Saturday, 3 August 2013

7:21 AM

Facinating discussion re Sky etc.
I won't use Sky for one simple reason - Murdoch!
Freesat gives me all the TV I need and a enough content in HD without paying £10 month to get HD. That's Freesat, not Freesat with Sky. Sometimes I see a programme in the listings on Sky Atlantic or Sky Arts I wish I could watch, but nothing is going to make me pay money to watch the odd program. As I am not an avid sports fan I don't need Sky. I do watch F1 and Tour de France, both still possible on Freesat/Freeview. F1 shared with Sky and TdF on ITV4 for the moment. But as soon as somthing gets popular, Sky can call on the huge reserves of the Murdoch empire to outbid any competion. Sky is like wanting a washing machine and finding you can only go to Currys to buy one and at full price. This is in my opinion not a competitive market place.

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Bill's 47 posts GB flag
Bill's: mapB's Freeview map terrainB's terrain plot wavesB's frequency data B's Freeview Detailed Coverage

8:05 AM

Mike Dimmick: Thanks for that excellent post, which clarified what I posted.

Just wish to add, on the subject of "repeats" during peak that BBC One repeats are currently 8.4%, but will rise to 10% due to DQF.

I see that certain publications have use the "63%" figure. However, given that BBC Two daytime is now a repeats zone due to DQF and that BBC three and FOUR are designed to show programmes to watch at different times.

BBC One and Two overnight show programmes again, but with signing and this, by an "all hours" measure (compared peak) the percentage rises.

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Briantist's 38,915 posts GB flag

9:57 AM

I think thats terrible that SKY charges BBC and ITV to be on the tv guide.... i say to people get rid of sky just have freesat,cable or freeview.. I had sky in the past when the whole package was 25 pounds a month.. i was happy with that... now its around 80 pounds inc hd channels... its just not worth it.... i refuse to pay murdoch empire for my tv shows..

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Rob's 171 posts GB flag
Rob's: mapR's Freeview map terrainR's terrain plot wavesR's frequency data R's Freeview Detailed Coverage
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