End retransmission fees, says Ed Vaizey

Ed Vaizey on Question Time Ed Vaizey has called for retransmission fees to end

Culture minister Ed Vaizey has warned of intervention if Sky continues to charge the BBC and other public-service broadcasters for carrying their content on its channels.

Vaizey was speaking at the Oxford Media Convention on Wednesday morning.

In an excerpt of his speech, the minister from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said he would like to see 'a solution on so-called retransmission fees'. These fees are paid by PSBs to satellite providers so that their free-to-air content is carried on subscription channels.

The fees vary by broadcaster and have been coming down slightly.

BSkyB is making about £10m from the retransmission fees per year, according to a figure quoted in The Guardian. It has made as much as £25m in past years.

The BBC paid Sky £6m in retransmission fees last year. This will drop to £4.4m by 2014.

'We've looked very carefully at arguments on both sides and recognise that this situation has evolved over time perhaps in a way we didn't intend,' Vaizey said.

He said that while he is glad of the steps Sky has taken to reduce retransmission fees significantly, he would like them 'to go further, taking into account the undoubted value that PSBs offer to satellite platforms and their viewers, so that there's a level playing field - zero fees either way.'

If an agreement cannot be reached, he warned, the government would look at its 'options for intervention'.

John Tate, the BBC's director of policy and strategy, said he welcomed the government's comments. 'The removal of these fees will enable the BBC to invest more of licence fee payers' money in original UK content.'

Vaizey also reflected on the media's recent challenges, making reference to Savile, McAlpine and the Leveson Report.

But he also commended the BBC for covering the 'Olympics superbly'.

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