Virgin plans to settle BSkyB dispute in court

Virgin Media is planning to take rival BSkyB to court over what it claims is an “abuse of dominance” following the collapse of negotiations about carriage rights.

The cable operator says it has formally advised Sky that it will pursue action in the High Court if disputes over Virgin carrying channels including Sky One, Sky News and Sky Sports News are not resolved within 30 days.

A statement issued by Virgin Media today says: “This comes on the heels of Sky’s rejection of an offer by Virgin Media to have the matter resolved through legally binding arbitration by an independent expert.”

The remedies sought will include supply of Sky’s basic channels at a “reasonable” commercial rate, as well as fair payment for Sky’s carriage of Virgin Media TV channels, such as Living and Bravo. Virgin Media will also seek damages if the dispute is not resolved.

Virgin Media chief executive Steve Burch said: “We are not interested in prolonging this dispute any longer than necessary but we will not allow Virgin Media or our customers to be the victim of Sky’s market power. In the interest of the consumer, we want these issues resolved quickly.”

Sky had earlier retaliated, urging media regulator Ofcom to open up Virgin Media’s “closed network” so customers could access the channels, which were dropped after a March 1 deadline passed with no contract agreement.

A source close to Sky says Virgin is intent on following regulatory routes and has insisted it was not going to make another offer. He says the cable company risks damaging its brand “for the sake of a PR war”.

Sky’s premium sports and movie channels are not affected by the dispute.

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