Media Perspective: Broadcasters must be wary of punching themselves out now

The EastEnders actor Steve McFadden (he plays red-faced Mitchell brother Phil in the soap) has seen his hardman image enhanced after reports in the News of the World detailed his brawl with painter Michael McIntyre outside a Falmouth pub.

Holding his hands up, McFadden told the Screws: "I got some good punches in. I was just settling in to make a night of it ... it was two men charging at each other, letting rip."

McFadden's fun was spoilt by two off-duty coppers who stepped in to break up the ruck, a cause of some upset to the burly actor who opined: "There were another nine rounds to go as far as I was concerned."

Outside Falmouth, there isn't always a calming influence at hand. For instance, there has been no cessation of hostilities in the pay-TV world, where the sector's own big bruiser, Sky, continues to wage war on several fronts.

Sky and Virgin Media's face-off over carriage of Sky channels on the Virgin platform has been well documented. Now Sky is fighting a slightly more subtle war with Setanta, which has launched its own pay-TV football coverage on the back of winning a chunk of the Premier League broadcast rights (this is explored in more detail on page 15).

The Sky and Setanta rivalry is pretty straightforward given that the two broadcasters have competing offerings to market, but it potentially adds to the confusion/complexity that surrounds the pay-TV market right now. Where once there was Sky or cable, viewers now have the additional platform options of BT Vision and Tiscali, not to mention pay-TV options via Freeview (how confusing is that for the average viewer?) plus add-on programme packages from the likes of Setanta (which has also teamed up with Virgin Media and BT Vision to offer deals that potentially undercut Sky).

All this provides a range of choice for the viewer and keeps Sky on its toes, but on the downside, it's a baffling array of information to cut through for the average punter, especially when you have rival platform owners making complex and vitriolic claims in print over who offers the best deal.

Perhaps the good news is, that for the time being at least, this won't have too much negative impact for advertisers. Setanta's offering, which is being sold vigorously by the sales house ids, could well bring in more male viewers via Freeview (as well as replicating much of Sky's audience) and the competition in the market is good for both trading negotiations and for stimulating product innovation from the broadcasters.

Problems for advertisers will only surface if the clunking fists of broadcasters continue indefinitely to bash one another, rather than creating transparent, innovative offerings for consumers. But surely they've got more sense than the average Mitchell brother.