Sky loses appeal in Virgin case

LONDON - BSkyB has lost its appeal involving confidential documents being seen by lawyers for Virgin Media, which is suing the satellite broadcaster for abusing its market dominance.

In the Court of Appeal yesterday, three judges threw out Sky's request and ordered the company to pay Virgin Media £40,000 in costs.

Sky wanted to place restrictions on who saw 8,800 documents, of which 7,900 were confidential, that it handed over to Virgin's legal team at the end of March.

It was unhappy because lawyers retained by Virgin were also advising its rival on its submission to the Competition Appeals Tribunal in relation to Sky's 17.9% stake in ITV and on Ofcom's investigation into the pay-TV market.

It therefore sought assurances that individual Ashursts staff working on the latter two cases did not see the documents relating to the first, but the judges rejected its case.

A Virgin Media spokeswoman, said: "We are pleased with the result and hope the administrative pre-trial process can now progress expeditiously."

A Sky spokeswoman said: "The hearing was about purely procedural matters. It does not affect the substantive issues or our resolve to defend ourselves against Virgin Media's misconceived and groundless claim."

Virgin Media's legal team is preparing to fight Sky in the High Court next year in a case centring on whether Sky abused its market dominance in negotiations between the two sides over channel carriage deals.

Sky slashed the amount it paid to carry Virgin channels such as LivingTV on its satellite platform. It also raised its own charges to Virgin for carrying basic Sky channels, including Sky One, before it finally pulled the channels.

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