FLVA and BBPA seek to re-open Sky case

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by Claire Hu The Federation of Licensed Vict-uallers Association and the British Beer & Pub Association have jointly written to the Office of...

by Claire Hu The Federation of Licensed Vict-uallers Association and the British Beer & Pub Association have jointly written to the Office of Fair Trading asking it to re-open its investigation into Sky following its 18% increase in sports channel fees. The letter, signed by BBPA and FLVA chief executives Rob Hayward and Tony Payne, says the increased charges will "have a serious impact on screening of live music in pubs, in particular Premiership football", and is difficult to understand given the realities of the current economic climate. They called on the OFT to re-open an investigation into Sky's pricing structures, which was sparked by representations from the BBPA in May, 2001. The satellite television operator was not found guilty of any offences, but the OFT said at the time it would be willing to listen to new evidence in future. "We believe the recent increases in charges raises new and significant issues relating to Sky's commercial practices and competitive behaviour," said the letter. "This round of rate rises averages about seven times the current rate of annual inflation at a time when there is no apparent abnormal increase in costs or additional utility on offer. "In addition, all the indications are that any future contracts with the Premiership will be agreed at a markedly lower level that currently in operation." It comes after a motion in Parliament calling on Sky to review its "pie-in-the-sky" price hikes, which also include a 100% increase in the subscription rate for its Premiership Plus channel. The price increases, which come into force on 1 September and range from 8% to 22% on top of the average £300 per month paid by each pub, have led to several operators, such as Greene King and Yates, to consider removing the service. Sky insists the price rises reflect the increased cost of providing the programming and the value it represents to customers.

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