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Sky ices Picnic, blames Ofcom

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Sky today said it had put its planned terrestrial pay TV product "Picnic" on ice, blaming Ofcom's glacial decision-making.

The regulator has been examining the proposals for 18 months now, and "there is no end in sight", a Sky spokesman said, "no business can go on like that".

The firm still hopes to bring Picnic to market, but has stopped further development as "the team have done everything they possibly can to prepare for launch," the spokesman added. The move means parallel Sky broadband and telephone offers for consumers who don't want pay TV or can't get satellite will also gather dust.

Under the proposals, Sky would replace its three free-to-air Freeview channels (Sky News, Sky Sports News and Sky 3) with premium Sky Movies and Sky Sports content, and Sky One. If Ofcom were to approve the broadcaster's desired switch to MPEG4 encoding, a fourth channel could be squeezed into the spectrum, granting a reprieve for Sky News.

The TV, broadband and phone packages would be offered in any combination.

Sky first pitched the idea to regulators in February 2007. Rivals Top-up TV and Setanta submitted objections and nothing has been heard of since March, when Ofcom told analysts it it would publish a response in Spring. The document never surfaced.

An Ofcom spokeswoman today said the appropriate people to comment on Sky's cage-rattling were in a meeting all morning. Prior to the publication of this story a second Ofcom press officer rang El Reg demanding to know why we hadn't called to ask the regulator's response. ®

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