Sky targets ITV and C5 ahead of Ofcom review

ITV corporate logo on a wall


Sky has launched an attack on two of the UK's commercial public service broadcasters.

According to The Sunday Times, the Comcast-owned broadcaster has written to Ofcom ahead of the regulator's forthcoming review of public service broadcasting in the UK, questioning the current status of ITV and Channel 5, claiming that the two benefit more from “in-kind subsidies” and “government support” than they provide in value to viewers.

However, Sky said it saw “no reason to alter the role or scope of the BBC and Channel 4” - two broadcasters with which it incidentally has  comprehensive partnership arrangements with.

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Urging Ofcom to take action, Sky said "There is no longer a need for two privately-owned, profit-driven commercial broadcasters to be designated as ‘public service broadcasters’, from which they derive more benefit, via in-kind subsidies and other government support, than they deliver in return. This model is no longer fit for purpose. We should move away from it, towards interventions that are carefully targeted and are open to everyone.”

Sky has also lobbied Ofcom to open up regional news provision to a competitive bidding process, as part of a move by Sky to provide local news in the regions instead of ITV.

In return for their places as the UK's third and fifth channels, ITV and Channel 5 are obligated to show a quota of news and current affairs programmes, as well as programmes for children. There are also obligations to make programmes outside of the M25, plus regional news on ITV.

Recent developments might explain why Sky is taking aim at ITV and Channel 5:

ITV has recently moved away from working with Sky, ending the Sky exclusive ITV Encore and the pay-per-view channel ITV Box Office, instead focusing on BritBox and ITV Hub+.

Channel 5 is now part of ViacomCBS and a potential rival to Sky in terms of undermining the pay TV offer from Sky: in recent years, increasing amounts of ViacomCBS programmes have become available free-to-air and on-demand across platforms other than Sky. In the world of pay TV, Comedy Central from ViacomCBS was originally launched as part of a partnership between Paramount and Sky, now Sky has choosen to launch its own, rival comedy channel.