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Sky plays the victim over Ofcom pay TV rights probe

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Sky has complained to Ofcom that a probe of its dominance of UK pay TV is too one-sided, ahead of a decision that could see the market for football and movie rights opened up to more competition.

The communications watchdog is due to publish all submissions to its pay TV market consultation next week, but the Financial Times mysteriously got hold of some of Sky's hitherto confidential whinges today. The Murdoch-owned satellite giant complains: "The investigation has inevitably become a quasi-adversarial process in which Sky is the defendant and the complainants the claimants."

Sky's rights supremacy is being attacked by BT, Setanta, Top-Up TV and Virgin Media. They suggest that Sky is able to charge high prices because it owns both the broadcasting platform and the content. Artificially high barriers to entry by competitors have been built by satellite's near-monopoly on film TV premieres and premiership football.

Ofcom launched an investigation in December, saying there were "warning signs" that consumers could be harmed.

Sky strongly disputed the claims in its response, charging that its rivals were "entirely divorced from the reality of the current conditions of competition".

In the document released today, Sky continues the theme: "Ofcom... must be wary of putting Sky in a position in which the burden of proof is reversed and in which Sky must comprehensively disprove wide-ranging and fanciful allegations by the complainants."

An Ofcom spokesman declined to comment on Sky's complaints ahead of the publication of the investigation's findings. It's thought possible that it could recommend forcing Sky to offer rights on a price-controlled wholesale basis to pay TV rivals. ®

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