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Originally posted March 2 2007 at 12:03 under General. 0 Comments. Trackbacks Disabled. Last modified: 02 March 2007 at 16:06

Into A Virgin Sky


In case you haven’t got a clue what I’m about to moan about, some of the news doing the rounds is that Sky’s basic package has been removed from cable TV platforms (Virgin Media, which is what was NTL Telewest, which formed from the merger of NTL and Telewest—in fact Virgin media is so new that it mostly hasn’t actually rebranded; and NTL Telewest never really got the chance). That means that those who receive their wonderful flashy, isn’t it all so wonderful, digital TV through cable don’t now get Sky 1, Sky News, etc. Personally I’m not that bothered about Sky 1, though it’s probably the biggest profile loss and missed by the most people, but I do quite like Sky Sports News’s football coverage on a Saturday afternoon—and I want it back.

The point I want to make isn’t really about the two childish companies involved. They are both as bad as each other. Virgin Media are trying to make out they’re are a people’s champion standing up to the bullies but they get no sympathy from me—the people’s champion would make sure the people weren’t actually the ones to suffer. It’s not helped by such childish acts as changing the EPG to read Sky Sports Snooze and saying “Sky have taken their ball away” (if so it’s only because Virgin winge every time the better player tackles them). To go on to say that their committed to bringing the viewer more TV, in a message displayed in place of a channel that their viewers can no longer receive, is ludicrous and insulting. Sky are little better; Virgin’s claims of bullying are hardly without foundation.

The thing is I don’t see why any of this is being allowed to happen by a government so intent on demanding a switch to digital services. Combined with the continues laughable flux of channels available on Freeview isn’t it time for some stronger regulation? A requirement that where practical providers have a compulsion to carry each other’s offerings, with governmental intervention and mediation when necessary? The much flaunted digital choice isn’t just about getting the BBC’s insane number of channels everywhere; that’s not choice, it’s just more BBC. Digital choice is about readily available channels competing with each other. If this trend is allowed to continue the only way for that to actually happen will be for the public to invest yet more money in supporting multiple platforms

So in conclusion, the government should do something to prevent this sort of situation (or stop telling us how fantastic digital choice is) and the two billionaires at the head of the companies involved should start acting like adults, with the best interests of the people paying them central to their views.

[Further note: Ha. I just linked up the two little companies at the top of this post and in so doing checked their websites to make sure I had the links right. Sky’s mentions the dispute, and also advertises new features like programming your Sky+ box via the internet. Virgin Media on the other hand starts off with a box Sorry for any inconvenience We’re just sorting ourselves out. In the meantime please search, check your mail or find out about any of our great products.. I think that says a lot, and is partly responsible for my dislike of Virgin’s response and actions during this whole situation. In all my experiences the simple fact has been that Sky’s service is simply better than that of cable.]

Update: The National Consumer Council, who seem to have some round-a-bout statutory powers to eventually bang heads together, have noted their concern. The most interesting quote for me is:

Our concern is that this dispute may expose a more fundamental flaw in the digital television market, and the extent to which it is competitive for consumers. NCC Press Release, 1st March 2007

That’s pretty much the point I was trying to make. Hopefully the whole process of their getting something done isn’t so long winded as it sounds like it might be.

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This Crazy Fool

Dr Ian Scott
Croydon (and Gateshead), United Kingdom
Bullding Services Engineer (EngDesign), PhD in Physics (University of York), football fanatic (Newcastle United), open source enthusiast (mainly Mozilla)

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