Sky is pulling its package of basic channels from Virgin Media after “intensive” negotiations between the two companies broke down this week.

Virgin Media customers will no longer have access to Sky One, Sky Two, Sky Three, Sky News and Sky Sports News through Virgin from the end of February.

A Virgin Media spokeswoman says: “The nature of these negotiations leads us to believe that this outcome has been deliberately engineered by Sky in order to suppress competition and coerce Virgin Media customers into switching to its service by denying them access to the basic channels.”

She adds that this view was reinforced when on February 12, at the height of negotiations, Sky broadcast promotions stating that the channels were about to disappear from Virgin Media.

She says: “This was nothing more than a heavy-handed attempt to exert undue influence on the negotiating process.”

Sky’s withdrawal does not include its premium sports and movies channels.

♦ BSkyB insists it is “premature” for Virgin Media to say it has pulled its channels and that talks continue. A Sky spokesman says: “With several days remaining and active discussions continuing, we’re surprised and disappointed that Virgin Media chose to go on national radio to attack Sky and suggest, prematurely, that their customers will miss out on Sky’s basic channels from March 1.” He says Sky “categorically rejects” claims that it has broken off negotiations or is seeking to more than double the price of the channels.