BT attacks Sky over 'lop-sided' pay TV regulation in Ofcom review

Gavin Patterson: BT's group chief executive calls for 'converged regulation'
Gavin Patterson: BT's group chief executive calls for 'converged regulation'

Sky's dominance of pay TV has led to "poor outcomes" for UK consumers, BT's chief executive has claimed, as it hopes to persuade Ofcom not to force a sell-off of its Openreach business.

In its submission to the regulator today, BT claimed "lop-sided" regulation had created an uneven playing field in the pay television market.

Ofcom’s Digital Communications Review, which is conducted every 10 years, set out proposals to force BT to sever its infrastructure business OpenReach from the rest of the company.

But BT said it was vital for the digital health of the UK that Openreach remains part of the wider BT Group, so it can benefit from the company’s investment, research and development.

The group chief executive of BT, Gavin Patterson, contrasted how the broadband market has "flourished" and has allowed Sky access to the Openreach network – compared to the pay TV market where "BT has struggled to obtain similar wholesale deals with Sky when it comes to content".

Patterson said: "Ofcom has the opportunity to level the playing field by tackling Sky’s dominance of Pay TV. 

"That dominance has led to poor outcomes for UK consumers and it is about time that converged regulation was introduced to deal with a converged market. The current lop-sided approach isn’t serving customers well." 

Sky’s chief financial officer, Andrew Griffith, accused BT of trying to deflect attention by raising the issue of pay TV competition. He told The Telegraph that BT’s comparison was "desperate stuff".

When launching the review in July, Ofcom said it was concerned that BT’s Openreach service on behalf of providers has "often been poor".

Ofcom’s review has asked for views and evidence on how it can improve competition in the sector, but Sky has called on the regulator to recommend that the Competition and Markets Authority carry out a full inquiry.

Sky made its submission to Ofcom yesterday. Mai Fyfield, the chief strategy officer at Sky, said: "The root of the problem is that BT, just one of the major broadband providers, has sole control of Openreach.  

"This means that decisions about investment in this critical national infrastructure reflect the interests of BT rather than the whole industry and the businesses and consumers that use its service."

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