Virgin launches rival appeal after Competition Commission Sky/ITV ruling

Virgin Media is filing an appeal against the Competition Commission’s findings on BSkyB’s stake in ITV, just days after Sky lodged its own appeal. It believes that the rival broadcaster should have been forced to sell more of its 17.9% stake that was recommended by the Commission.

Sky has been told it must reduce its stake to 7.5% following an investigation but Virgin says that this is “inadequate” because the Commission ruled that the shareholding has compromised ITV’s independence.

It further believes that its conclusion that the acquisition has not materially affected plurality in the UK’s media is false because of the ITV (ITN) and Sky’s “very significant” news operations.

The cable company believes that Sky’s £960m swoop on the shares was intended to block moves on ITV, including its own putative £4.7bn bid for ITV, to prevent the emergence of a stronger competitor and is as such against the public interest.

The cable company is requesting the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) review the conclusions of the Commission and Secretary of State for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. It says the appeal forms “an important part” of Virgin Media’s “commitment to fight for a more dynamic and competitive media landscape in the UK”.

Sky’s own CAT submission contests that its investment in ITV constitutes a merger, and even given that it was, the divestment to a level below 7.5% is an unreasonable and disproportionate remedy.

The appeal tribunal has the power to quash all or part of the previous findings and send the case back for further consideration.

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