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Virgin Media will slap a 25 pence per minute charge on calls to its broadband technical support line from 1 July because it says it gets too many off-topic questions.

The firm angered its investors last month by posting a shaky-looking first set of financial results.

Customer care MD Steve Stewart said: "Over half the calls we receive are general enquiries about using the internet or another company's software, rather than the broadband connection we supply, so we can't sustain our award-winning service with the existing local rate charges.

"We remain committed to offering the option of phone support, but we also provide a free status line, free email support and extensive information on our website."

Which is perhaps not much use if your internet access is down.

The troubled cable monopoly said the charges would encourage calls seeking technical advice on broadband and allow it to continue to offer "best-in-class service". Calls to bundle rival Sky's support line are charged at eight pence per minute.

In other news, Virgin announced today that it would launch its own entertainment TV channel as a response to losing Sky One. Virgin 1 will go live on freeview in autumn, and is designed to give the firm "more muscle to acquire and commission the very best US and UK programming". ®

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