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ntl and Sky saga over ITV continues

# 15 January 2007, 15:48 by Cable Forum

The Times reported at the weekend that the Virgin group and ntl are now calling for immediate intervention from the Department of Trade and Industry over Sky’s recent acquisition of a 17.9% stake in ITV, which blocked further progress of ntl’s attempt to aquire the channel in November last year. ntl and the Virgin group are apparently calling for the immediate action after the Office of Fair Trading announced a formal inquiry into Sky’s purchase of ITV shares.

ntl had stated in a previous statement and claimed that Sky and its holdings in ITV would reduce competition and raise plurality concerns which ntl also claimed was not in the public interest.

The Times also reports ntl had told the OFT that Sky’s stake in ITV will result in a “substantial lessening of competition in relation to multi-channel TV services, advertising and the acquisition of sports rights”.

According to The Times, a spokesman for Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, Will Whitehorn, welcomed the investigation and stated BSkyB should be forced to sell its whole stake, “not just part of it”. He also said that the Department of Trade and Industry should look at the wider picture of plurality.

The Times says the OFT needs to yet make a decision on whether to refer the case to the Competition commission and should BSkyb be referred to this commission, it could be forced to sell part or all of its stake in ITV.

An Office of Fair trading statement had said:

“The OFT believes it may be the case that a relevant merger situation has been created since Sky and ITV may have come under common control for the purposes of the Enterprise Act 2002 as a result of Sky acquiring material influence over ITV, and that the turnover test is satisfied.”

A spokesman for Sky had said:

“ITV has put in place strong, independent leadership and is capable of turning around its performance to the benefit of viewers, employees and all of its shareholders. ITV is a good investment for Sky. We will continue to engage fully with the OFT in relation to the inquiry as it moves forward.”

News Source: Timesonline

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