British Interactive Broadcasting (BIB) has been given the go-ahead to launch after spending a year convincing the European Commission (EC) that it does not represent a monopoly.
BIB – a joint venture between BT, BSkyB, the Midland Bank and Matsushita Electric – plans to offer interactive home shopping and banking as part of BSkyB’s 200-channel digital TV service.
A spokesman for the EC says that in the next few weeks it will publish a notice allowing the venture to continue, but will lay down conditions. BIB has agreed to abide by them.
Consumers who buy BIB-subsidised digital TV decoders will not be required to subscribe to BSkyB or any other pay-TV service.
The four partners who make up the alliance have also agreed to provide third-party access to the set-top boxes and software needed to run interactive services.
As part of the EC negotiations, BT has already agreed to sell its UK cable interests: Westminster Cable and Milton Keynes Cable.
European Union competition commissioner Karel Van Miert was initially concerned about the venture, because of the dominant positions of BT and BSkyB in their respective markets.
BIB will begin a test launch this autumn, with a full launch coming in the second half of next year.