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Monday, 17 December, 2001, 12:50 GMT
BSkyB accused of market abuse
Satellite dish
BSkyB beams TV programmes via satellite dish
Satellite broadcaster BSkyB could be fined up to 300m if an industry watchdog probe finds that it abused its dominant position in the market for pay TV services.

The UK's anti-trust regulator, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), has the power to fine companies that breach competition law up to 10% of their UK turnover.

The OFT said on Monday that BSkyB's pricing strategy had kept rival broadcasters on the sidelines while making it difficult for new programme distributors to enter the market.

The OFT is to conduct an investigation into BSkyB's operations, with a final decision expected in the middle of next year.

BSkyB denial

BSkyB has denied the charges, pledging to defend itself "robustly" against the allegations.

"BSkyB has not infringed the Competition Act and welcomes its first opportunity to put its case to the OFT," a spokesman said.

The company has until March next year to make its case.

Stock market unfazed

In London, BSkyB's shares fell sharply on the news, but later recovered to trade slightly higher at around 745p.

Analysts said that the decision from the OFT, which began investigating BSkyB's impact on the pay TV market a year ago, was widely expected.

Subscription television services such as ITV Digital have previously complained that BSkyB charges so much for its premium programmes that it is difficult to make a profit from broadcasting them.

Cable company Telewest said on Monday that it may sue BSKyB if the final OFT decision goes against the broadcaster.

"If there is a decision against them, we may consider suing BSkyB for damages," a spokesman said.

The latest OFT probe was launched in last year after BSkyB attempted to push through hefty price rises.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's John Moylan
"BskyB has three months to respond"
See also:

18 Nov 01 | Business
BSkyB dishes 'to include ITV'
05 Dec 00 | Business
BSkyB faces competition probe
02 Nov 01 | Business
BSkyB subscriber numbers disappoint
23 Jul 01 | Business
EU investigates BSkyB
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