In a letter to Sajid Javid, the new culture, media & sport secretary — seen by the Publican’s Morning Advertiser — Perkins said most of the pubs that use these satellite systems are “not deliberately trying to break the law” but are “victims” of rogue companies and it is a “great injustice” that they are being pursued.
He demanded to know what the Government is doing to stop these companies offering illegal TV services to pubs and called for action on pursuing providers instead.
'Target suppliers not publicans'
Speaking exclusively to the PMA, Perkins said: “I would like to see the main focus of both Government policy and Sky [prosecutions] to be on the suppliers of these products rather than the publicans. If they can cut it off at source, that’s much better than prosecuting publican after publican.”
Perkins wrote the letter after being contacted by one of his constituents, Keith Bannister, who runs Harleys Bar in Staveley, Derbyshire. Bannister was sent a flyer by a company offering a live football TV package for pubs.
Perkins said the flyer was “professionally done” and “looks authentic” and the company has its own website and customer service team that assures publicans it can legally provide this service in the UK.
Alison Dolan, deputy managing director at Sky Business, said: “We take illegal use of our programming very seriously, which is why we take action against both suppliers and landlords where we believe our copyright is being infringed.
“The law is clear — if licensees want to avoid the risk of having legal action taken against them they should subscribe to a commercial viewing agreement with Sky Sports and/or BT Sport.
“We encourage any licensee approached by a supplier attempting to mislead them to contact us in confidence at email@example.com or 0844 8244 244.”
BT Sport’s director for commercial customers Bruce Cuthbert added: “BT takes the issue of illegal distribution of live sports very seriously. We work with FACT, the Premier League and other rights holders to reduce the amount of illegally shown live sport, whether that’s via rogue companies mis-selling sports subscriptions or a pub who is showing it.
“We sympathise with publicans who have been mis-sold, and for this reason it’s vitally important that we raise awareness of the issue. We visit commercial premises regularly and if we see a pub infringing our rights we aim to clarify the position directly with the publican. This gives publicans the opportunity to stop illegally showing and for the vast majority has meant no further legal action is required.“
A spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media & Sport said Javid has not received the letter as it “appears to have been sent to the wrong address”. He added: “If Mr Perkins re-sends the letter, the department will of course respond to the concerns he raises.”