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8th January 2019, 12:00

uMee and GibSat confirm they will no longer be able to broadcast Sky channels

Local telecoms providers uMee and GibSat have confirmed they will no longer be broadcasting Sky channels.

In statements following questions by GBC, the companies both said Sky had asked them to withdraw the channels after they were unable to reach an agreement on the rights. They attribute the present situation to telecommunications competition within Gibraltar.

Gibtelecom - which recently acquired the rights to broadcast Sky channels as part of its TV offering - says "anti-piracy crackdowns" are on the rise, and that it is not responsible for the possible effect of these on Gibraltar.

uMee says as Gibraltar residents are losing access to channels they have enjoyed for 25 years. It adds it has been trying to come to an arrangement for Gibraltar with Sky for nine months, but has now had to withdraw its channels. It says it regrets the inevitable inconvenience to customers, but says this is due to "actions taken beyond its control".

For its part, GibSat says it has been trying to obtain the rights from Sky for years, and that no action has previously been taken against GibSat. It questions whether the situation has arisen due to its success in providing competition in the telecommunications market locally. It says it is presently negotiating for an "orderly withdrawal" of Sky channels.

Gibtelecom recently launched its "fully licensed" Sofi entertainment system, which currently includes three Sky channels: Sky Sports Premier League, Sky Sports F1, and Sky News. Asked by GBC to confirm or deny if it had complained to Sky about the other providers, Gibtelecom says the extent of its contact with Sky has been to negotiate the legal acquisition of its channels.

The local telecoms company adds its decision to start providing TV services was as a direct result of competitors moving into the broadband space. It adds its priority is to provide a "legitimate, high-quality service".

For its part, Sky has not responded to questions from GBC.

CHIEF MINISTER MEETING WITH SKY

And, GBC understands the Chief Minister has arranged a meeting with the CEO of Sky, to discuss its legal coverage in Gibraltar.

Fabian Picardo is the chairman of the Board of Directors of Gibtelecom. In February 2017, the Government confirmed in Parliament that it owned 100% of Gibtelecom shares.

Mr Picardo and Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Garcia are in London for meetings associated with Gibraltar's departure from the European Union.

Discussions will include preparations for a no-deal Brexit.