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Kelvin MacKenzie blasts 'footie rights warehouse' BSkyB

Battle for the Johnstone's Paint Trophy taken to Ofcom

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The latest onslaught against media baron Rupert Murdoch comes from an unlikely assailant. Former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie says he'll lodge a complaint with Ofcom over BSkyB's exclusive ownership of football rights.

MacKenzie briefly ran BSkyB as its MD, after leaving the Currant Bun in 1994, and has often defended Murdoch's News Corporation, the largest shareholder in BSkyB and owner of Sun-publisher News International.

Having sold TalkSport seven years ago, MacKenzie today runs Sports Tonight, a TV channel currently available on IP, but aiming to launch on Sky's platform.

MacKenzie accused BSkyB of "hoarding or warehousing" the rights for games in the old football league: the broadcaster has exclusive dibs on the Championship and old Third and Fourth (now First and Second) league divisions. He told the FT that clubs should be able to individually negotiate coverage rights rather than fall under a blanket agreement brokered by league bosses. BSkyB also has rights to the Johnstone's Paint Trophy.

Ironically, it was a ludicrous £315m deal to televise lower-tier Football League games that sank ONdigital, the digital pay TV rival to BSkyB.

But the distribution picture has changed somewhat in the past decade. With falling costs and new local channels applying to Ofcom for a slice of White Space, there may well be a market for viewing lower-tier games - if the price is right. MacKenzie could be on to something.

Although Sky is a lucrative operation today, with an annual average revenue of £546 per user, it wasn't always so. The broadcaster bled red ink for 13 years before finally turning a profit in 2002. ®

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