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Virgin Media to take Sky to High Court- 12 Apr 2007 00:00:00

Virgin Media is to carry out its threat of legal action against rival media network BSkyB following the withdrawal of basic channels including Sky Sports News from the former’s cable offering – a move BSkyB has warned will only strengthen its resolve.

Virgin Media’s claim that Sky has purposefully engaged in an anti-competitive strategy by restricting carriage of its channels will now be heard by the High Court unless a last minute renegotiation can be arranged.

Sky One, Sky Two, Sky Three and Sky Sports News have been missing from the Virgin Media platform since 28th February, affecting the cable TV provider's 3.3m subscribers.

The proceedings are now also set to address what Virgin Media calls ‘onerous rates’ imposed by Sky for carriage of Virgin Media TV channels on Sky's own platform.

Any court action will be based on Section 18 of the UK Competition Act 1998 and Article 82 of the EC Treaty, each of which prohibit a company from abusing its dominant position.

Steve Burch, Virgin Media chief executive, said: ‘This dispute is one very specific example of how UK consumers are being denied the benefits of a diverse, dynamic and competitive pay TV market. Litigation is obviously a serious step and a last resort but we are determined to have these issues resolved as quickly and fairly as possible.’

In response Sky has said that legal action will only serve to strengthen its stance but that it was willing to engage in further talks with Virgin to resolve the matter.

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