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ITV Threatens Virgin Media Blackout Over Payment Disagreement
06 Nov 2017 : Nathan Griffin
Virgin Media customers in the UK could see the loss of ITV as fresh broadcasting disagreements have emerged.

IFTN followed similar developments with Irish national broadcaster, RTE in Ireland early last month, as ITV demand that Virgin pay between £45-80 million in additional annual fees to keep ITV's services.

ITV claim that Virgin Media's On-Demand and private recording services have hampered sales and advertisement deals for the broadcaster as Virgin Customers have the ability to skip advertising through these platforms. Additionally, the ability to store programs as a Virgin Media customer is said to have subsequently lowered viewing figures on ITV's own online streaming services, again leading to loss of revenue.

ITV believes they have government backing following the Repeal of Section 73 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act, which removed a copyright exemption that had allowed Virgin Media to carry ITV’s flagship PSB channel for free along with Minister of state for digital Matt Hancock's remarks that the dispute “could easily be resolved by a contractual agreement.”

An ITV Spokesperson said:

“We already have commercial contracts in place for the supply of our digital channels and ITV Hub to Virgin Media and Matt Hancock has said that he sees no reason why contractual arrangements can’t be put in place for the carriage of our main channel, we agree. A change in the law now allows us to negotiate with Virgin about payment for our main channel, and that is what we are attempting to do.”

However, Virgin is adamant that it will resist any call for payment stating that:

“Neither Virgin Media nor our customers will be paying for channels that are meant to be free. ITV signed up to a new 10-year license in 2015 that didn’t include these fees and is now trying to go back on this deal to prop up its profits."

“ITV is already fully compensated for this through its prominent position, with the audience reach and additional advertising revenue this delivers,” 

According to reports from the Telegraph, sources close to the dispute suggest Virgin Media could explore ways of continuing to broadcast ITV’s main channel even if the official feed were withdrawn. This could however be seen as a technical breach of copyright law, resulting in Virgin Media having to rely on regulator 'Ofcom' adjudging ITV to be failing in its PSB.

ITV's spokesperson added:

“Our position is very straightforward: ITV, and other PSBs, should be paid fairly by pay TV platforms that make money from our multibillion-pound investment in original UK content so that we can continue to invest in the programmes, particularly drama and entertainment, that our viewers enjoy,”

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