BSkyB COO attacks public service TV culture

Conference hears British TV has 'culture of dependency'

LONDON -- BSkyB chief operating officer Mike Darcey on Tuesday said government, regulators and "the culture of public service broadcasting" were responsible for the troubles faced by free-to-air broadcasters here, and told the U.K.'s biggest networks they would struggle in a digital age because they had had failed to innovate and take risk.

"Even when the current downturn comes to an end, it is difficult to envisage long-term real growth in television advertising revenues. Inevitably, these pressures must feed through to what goes on the screen," he said, speaking at the Institute of Economic Affairs' annual conference on broadcasting.

His comments come just days after media regulator Ofcom said that it would investigate the pay TV giant's control of sports and movie rights and would make Sky offer its premium channels to other operators at lower prices.

"We should consider why it is that so much of the commercial broadcasting sector has failed to move on," Darcey said. "The reason is deeply rooted in the culture of the public service broadcasting system which binds the broadcasters together with those responsible for U.K. broadcasting policy," he added.

"In this complex system of privileges and obligations, the fortunes of the terrestrial broadcasters have been reliant on winning the support of regulators and politicians," Darcey told assembled executives.

"The consequence is a culture of dependency which shapes the mindset and strategies of the licensed broadcasters," he added.

Last week BSkyB chief executive Jeremy Darroch said Ofcom's proposals to investigate Sky's wholesale channel deals with other platforms "defied belief" and warned the satcaster would use "all legal routes" to challenge the regulator.
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