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Monday, 23 July, 2001, 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK
EU investigates BSkyB
Rupert Murdoch
A complaint has been made against Murdoch's BSkyB
Regulators at the European Commission have launched a competition investigation into British Sky Broadcasting's agreements with other media companies.

The Commission plans to determine whether BSkyB's exclusive contracts for channels such as Disney and Discovery violate competition rules.

A spokesman for Competition Commissioner Mario Monti, said the Commission was "beginning to look into" a complaint from a competitor, whom he declined to identify.

BSkyB, the pay-TV satellite network backed by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, said on Sunday that the Commission was focussing on the exclusive deals between itself and programmers such as Discovery.

The contracts prevent the programmers from offering some channels to BSkyB's rival ITV Digital, the commercial digital terrestrial service jointly owned by television groups Granada and Carlton Communications

"The complaint alleges that the exclusive contracts contravene EU competition rules, are illicit agreements and have a potential for abuse," the spokesman said.

Complaint 'groundless'

BSkyB dismissed the complaint as groundless.

The competition authority in the UK, the Office of Fair Trading, is currently conducting an inquiry into whether BSkyB is abusing its dominance of the UK's wholesale pay-television market.

Sky operates as a platform, catering to 5.3m subscribers.

The rest of its cable and digital terrestrial competitors have a combined two million subscribers between them.

BSkyB is also a wholesale broadcaster, with channels such as the popular Sky Sports, which it sells on to rival platforms.

BSkyB reports annual results on Wednesday, with analysts predicting an increase in pre-tax losses, before exceptionals, of 201m to 232m.

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