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Sunday, 12 May, 2002, 10:42 GMT 11:42 UK
BSkyB 'faces satellite tax'
Satellite dish
BSkyB beams TV programmes via satellite dish
The broadcaster BSkyB could be hit by a 'satellite tax' under terms included in the draft Communications Bill.

The measures mean that satellite TV operators would be charged for access to the airwaves, reports said.

At the moment only users of terrestrial frequencies have to pay, while satellite broadcasters have free access.

The Observer newspaper said the move could put the UK government on "collision course" with Rupert Murdoch.

Mr Murdoch's News Corporation company owns 40% of BSkyB.

Anger

The measures for charging satellite operators were included in the small print of the draft Communications Bill, which was published last week.

The Observer said that BSkyB was angry about the possible change.

"Any proposal would unfairly discriminate against over 30 satellite operators," the paper quoted an unnamed BSkyB source as saying.

According to the draft Bill, access fees "would be subject to the existing spectrum pricing regime".

The Financial Mail on Sunday reported that ITV companies already pay the government 360m a year for access to the airwaves, but it was unclear how much BSkyB might be charged.

"The Bill is clearly talking about a tax by any other name, but the Government is not saying how much or who should set the level," the Mail quoted one analyst as saying.

Channel 5

The Observer also said that the government planned to give the broadcasting regulator Ofcom powers to change broadcasters' licences if they were taken over.

When the Communications Bill was published last week, the relaxation of some of the rules on ownership was seen as a chance for BSkyB to bid for Channel 5.

But the Observer said these plans could hinder any takeover plan by BSkyB.

The paper said that Ofcom would be able to make any new owner of a UK station accept changes to its licence.

It said the measure was aimed at preventing foreign media companies from dramatically altering the content of a station after it had been taken over.

See also:

10 May 02 | Business
Sky pays for TV collapse
08 May 02 | Business
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01 May 02 | TV and Radio
And the digital licence goes to...?
17 Dec 01 | Business
BSkyB accused of market abuse
08 May 02 | Business
NTL files for bankruptcy
02 May 02 | Business
Can cable deliver?
23 Jul 01 | Business
EU investigates BSkyB
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