Flextech leads legal battle over ITC plan for new cable deals

The Independent Television Commission is standing firm on its decision to abolish minimum carriage requirements on pay-TV channels, despite mounting legal threats from cable companies outraged by the move.

The Independent Television Commission is standing firm on its

decision to abolish minimum carriage requirements on pay-TV channels,

despite mounting legal threats from cable companies outraged by the

move.



Flextech is the first company to have taken formal legal action. It is

seeking a judicial review from the High Court to re-examine the

decision, arguing that the ITC acted outside its legal authority by

interfering with existing contracts. It is also alleging that ’the ITC

did not consult sufficiently on the definition of minimum carriage

requirements’.



Flextech is also claiming that, under the Broadcasting Act 1990, the

ITC’s remit is to ensure fair and effective competition between

providers of television programme services, not to regulate the supply

terms to retailers or consumers.



Meanwhile, the Sci-Fi Channel Europe is also planing legal action.

Because of this, and Flextech’s action, Viacom - which owns Nickleodeon

and MTV - said its own involvement will not be necessary.



An ITC spokesperson said: ’We are confident we came to the correct

decision within our powers. They can’t question the decision and we will

oppose them strongly.’



The High Court is unlikely to grant Flextech a judicial review for at

least a fortnight. If it then decides the cable company has a case,

further action could take between one and four months to reach a

conclusion.



The ITC confirmed that even if the High Court finds against it, there

will be no changes to its rulings until it knows whether it can

appeal.



The ITC decided in late June to call an end to bundling, the process by

which cable customers are forced to take a package of channels, rather

than being free to subscribe on an a la carte basis.



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