Overview of Ofcom"s Recent Decision Requiring Sky to Wholesale its Premium Sports Channels to Competing Retail Operators in the UK

Ciaran Walker, Fomerly Senior Competition Counsel, BT, UK

On 31 March 2010, Ofcom, the UK communications regulator, issued a Statement, requiring BSkyB Limited (‘Sky’) to wholesale certain of its premium sports channels to competing operators in the UK at wholesale terms and conditions, including price, regulated by Ofcom.

 
Ofcom’s Statement, which follows an investigation of pay TV in the UK lasting over 3 years, raises complex and interesting legal and policy issues relating to the circumstances in which an undertaking, which has invested significant sums in developing highly-valued property (in this case, premium sports channels), should be required by law to make this property available to third parties on a wholesale basis.
This article provides an overview of some of the main issues raised in Ofcom’s investigation.   
  

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United Kingdom Competition Telecommunications August 2010 Vol. 3, No. 12, Summer 2010

Ciaran Walker

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Ciaran Walker is an independent consultant, specialising in advising on competition law and regulation in the communications industry.
 
For over 11 years, to April 2010, Ciaran was Senior Competition Counsel at BT Group Plc.
 
Ciaran has over 20 years' experience of advising in complex competition and regulatory law investigations and litigation before the UK and EU authorities and courts.
Ciaran has led BT teams in a number of cutting-edge Competition Act cases before Ofcom and the Competition Appeal Tribunal, including the major Ofcom investigations into BT’s broadband pricing, which involved allegations of a 'margin squeeze'. Furthermore, he has represented BT in a number of Competition Commission investigations.
 
Ciaran has also been centrally involved in BT’s regulatory strategy on entertainment content-related issues. In particular :
    • Ofcom's pay TV market investigation;
    • the 'Canvas' IPTV joint venture, which includes BT, the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five.
Prior to joining BT, in 1989, Ciaran was a Senior Associate at the City law firm Simmons & Simmons. His experience at Simmons & Simmons included pleading in high-profile cases before the European Court of Justice and European General Court.
 
 

BT Group plc

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 BT is one of the world’s leading providers of communications solutions operating in more than 170 countries. Principal activities include networked IT services, local, national and international telecommunications services, and higher value broadband and internet products and services.

United Kingdom Competition Telecommunications August 2010 Vol. 3, No. 12, Summer 2010