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Sky: how will a new owner affect Freeview carriage?


If 21st Century Fox was to succeed in taking over the remainder of Sky, there could be implications for the carriage of Sky's channels on Freeview.

Historically, Sky has been restricted as to how many slots it is allowed to take on Freeview's digital multiplexes. Sky currently offers Sky News, Challenge and Pick on Freeview. Fox offers Your TV on the platform. No restrictions apply on temporary multiplexes, which will be turned off once frequencies are reallocated to 5G mobile services, meaning Sky has acquired a slot for Pick+1 for Freeview viewers in some parts of the UK.

It is not known if the current restrictions, which apply to "any of Sky, any person connected with Sky  and any person in which Sky is, directly or indirectly, a participant with an interest of 50% or more" will continue under new ownership, given the competition concerns that caused those restrictions to be created will have changed following the sale of Sky News.

However, there would still be some legitimate concern over a company that controls a pay TV rival - whether that be 21st Century Fox, Disney or Comcast - acquiring too many slots on Freeview. But the restrictions were originally placed on Sky when only four standard definition channels were broadcast per multiplex, whereas now, up to 16 channels are carried per multiplex.

Indeed, it would be seen as unfair for the new owner to have an independent Sky News be counted towards any quota on the channels it runs on Freeview.

Interestingly, earlier this year, it was reported that Sky was looking in to the option of making Sky Arts free-to-air, indicating that Sky is actively considering its options for future free-to-air broadcasts, with the broadcaster continuing to consider a widely available free-to-air outlet as a useful tool to raise awareness of its products and services.

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