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Sky Guide fees row: Ed Vaizey wants free access for BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5

Sky could be forced to axe the £15.6m it charges to feature the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 in its programme guide if it doesn’t scrap them on its own.

Culture minister Ed Vaizey said he wants a ‘level playing field’ where the public service broadcasters neither pay nor charge Sky for their channel numbers and listings.

The five public service broadcasters are legally guaranteed the top five slots for their main channels, paying from £6m/year for the BBC channels to £1.1m/year for the Channel 5 family.

Sky Guide fees row: Ed Vaizey wants free access for BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5
All this for just £15.6m a year

The ‘platform access charges’ are already set to decrease by 66 per cent from 2011-2014, but broadcasting minister Vaizey wants them to negotiate a zero-rate.

Broadcast magazine said he told the Oxford Media Convention: “I believe there’s no reason the market shouldn’t be able to work out a fair and equitable solution as things stand. 

“But if the industry can’t find a way to stop imposing this cost on licence fee payers and PSBs, we will look at options for intervention.”

The fees do not cover satellite transmission itself, which the channels pay directly to the satellite operator, Luxembourg-based SES.

The BBC and the other channels have been campaigning since 2010 for the fees to be axed, while ITV and Channel 5 have cut deals to reduce their bills: ITV2, 3 and 4 in HD are subscription-only via satellite, as is Channel 5 HD and both 5USA and 5*.

Sky said its costs are fair and should be considered as equal to utility bills and studio facilities.

“Public service broadcasters benefit from the billions of pounds we’ve invested in our TV platform, and the technical services we provide them,” Sky added.

“Thanks to Sky’s investment, they reach 40 per cent of their audiences via our platform and use our technology to customise channels and services for the benefit of their viewers.”

A new Communications Act will be published later this year, setting a deadline for Sky to settle with the PSB channels.

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