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TV5MONDE names Virgin Media departure date

French channel TV5MONDE says it will leave Virgin Media this week, following its recent departure from Sky.

The channel features news, current affairs and entertainment programmes from French language public services broadcasters around the world, including France Télévisions, RTS (SRG SSR), RTBF and Télé Quebec and was one of the original analogue cable channels in the UK.

It closed abruptly on Sky on 30th November 2018 and now TV5MONDE says it will be removed from Virgin Media on the 18th January 2019.

The removal will come around two weeks before WorldBox is also removed from Virgin Media, which offered access to the main French domestic public service channels.

A live webstream of the channel remains available in the UK, which can be played on PCs, tablets and mobiles. TV5MONDE has promised to offer alternative viewing options later this year.

Originally, the channel said its sudden switch to online-only distribution in the UK was a result of "listening and adapting to UK viewer's needs", but the social media backlash from viewers has cast doubt on the justification, with viewers saying they hadn't been consulted. The Sky switch-off came before the replacement webstream was working properly, leading to TV5MONDE apologising for the gremlins and leaving viewers fuming as recordings were wiped from Sky+HD and Sky Q boxes without notice.

What is known is that TV5MONDE's French broadcasting licence is not likely to be valid for the UK after 30th March 2019 and without an Ofcom licence would not able to appear on Sky and Virgin EPGs. At the present time, the channel has not been issued a UK licence to continue broadcasting. The new webstream service  circumvents the need for a UK broadcast licence. Indeed a number of services streamed through to Freeview 264 and 269 do so without a UK licence; albeit with a pre-load warning message to viewers. The channel portals themselves are licensed.

Other international broadcasters, including those originating from South Asia, have Ofcom licences.

TV5MONDE, which became free-to-air on Sky a few years back and could be viewed without a smartcard also confirmed it "was not possible to stay with Sky and offer the channel for free". Although unconfirmed by TV5MONDE, if the channel was licensed in the UK, its content would have to come in line with UK broadcasting and watershed rules, forbidding certain content prior to 9pm. Short of launching a separate service for the UK, encryption and PIN protection would have been the only way to secure compliance for a channel which frequently screens non-family drama and films starting at 8pm UK time (9pm Paris).