Media Lifeline: Ofcom's BSkyB consultations

The regulator has its hands full trying to keep up with BSkyB's developments.

November 2006: BSkyB has had dealings with Ofcom before - notably on whether it was charging ITV too much for carrying all of its regional variants - but an intense period of run-ins with the regulator begins when Ofcom decides to investigate Sky's acquisition of a 17.9 per cent stake in ITV. (Though the issue is eventually ruled on by the Competition Commission.)

February 2007: Sky seeks permission from Ofcom to upgrade Sky News, Sky Sports News and Sky 3 on Freeview to pay-TV channels. It's a key part of its chief executive James Murdoch's drive to broaden Sky's offering. They are to be in a telephone and broadband package - Picnic.

March 2007: And Ofcom is no mere rubber stamp - as Sky finds out weeks later when the regulator announces it is to investigate (at the behest of the Richard Branson-backed Virgin Media) whether Sky exercises undue power over the pay-TV market, rendering it uncompetitive.

September 2008: The signals emerging from Ofcom about Picnic have been far from encouraging - but no definitive ruling has emerged. Now Sky loses patience and states that it is putting Picnic on ice, blaming the glacial pace of Ofcom decision-making. "There is no end in sight," a Sky spokesman says, more in anger than in sorrow. "No business can go on like that."

October 2008: And there's even worse news, potentially, days later, when Ofcom announces the preliminary conclusions of its pay-TV inquiry. BSkyB does indeed wield too much power, it suggests - and it proposes further measures, subject to another inevitable (and lucrative, for the legal profession at least) consultation process, to force Sky to lower the prices at which it sells its sports and films channels to other platforms such as Virgin.

Fast forward ...

March 2009: With an election in the offing, BSkyB reveals that Murdoch's media outlets are preparing to trash Labour if Ofcom doesn't lay off. Following a "consultation" between the Ofcom boss, Ed Richards, and PM Gordon Brown, Richards resigns.