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Sky lodges appeal over Sky News Freeview EPG move

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Robbery CCTV footage from Sky News
Sky has lodged an appeal with the body that co-ordinated the Freeview electronic programme guide (EPG) over plans to shift Sky News further down the guide.

DTT Multiplex Operators Limited (DMOL), the Ofcom-licensed provider of Freeview EPG services, recently published a series of proposed changes to Freeview channel numbering.

The proposals involve various services, including News and Children's being moved further down the EPG in order to make space for more 'general entertainment' networks and a new local television channel.

The new numbering is due to come into force on September 19, 2012, but the proposed changes to the News and Children's genres have been put on hold pending the outcome of an appeal by Sky.

A DMOL spokesperson said: "We can confirm that the moves of News and Children's channels on Freeview will be put on hold pending an appeal by Sky against the proposed relocation of Sky News. Other changes to the guide will proceed as planned on that date."

In a submission to DMOL, Sky detailed its "broad stroke" objections to the reshuffle, which would result in the Sky News channel being bumped down the EPG.

Sky believes that it is not appropriate to move the news channels, both from a commercial perspective, but also more generally that news and children's programming are core to the public service remit Freeview.

The broadcaster said that DMOL has not "demonstrated that there is, in fact, a problem that needs addressing" with the reshuffle, or shown there is a "resounding consumer call" to make changes that "will do little (if anything) in terms of improving consumer experience".

Sky notes that changing channel position on an EPG can have major implications for a commercial network's advertising revenue, but also the ability of viewers to locate it as they may have become used to it being somewhere else.

The firm goes even further to state that the assumption underlying DMOL's proposals is "flawed" because genres do not actually play as big a role in viewer choices on Freeview as on other platforms.

The Sky, Virgin Media and Freesat TV platforms host far more channels and so provide "direct access" to genres, but Freeview receivers do not, said Sky.

"Freeview boxes do not currently facilitate the navigation of services according to genre (and Sky is not aware of any proposed changes that might address this issue)," the firm adds.

"For example, it is not possible for viewers to select an option that allows them to go to and/or distil out all the channels in the News or Children's genres.

"The DMOL EPG is, in effect, a single, long list which consumers simply scroll through (unless they know and type in the number of channel for which they are specifically searching)."

Sky therefore feels that DMOL's efforts to create more space for the Freeview channel genres will just "disrupt unnecessarily the viewer experience".

"It is inappropriate for existing channels to be pushed down the EPG for the sake of maintaining genre integrity when Freeview genres are practically meaningless and inconsistently applied," said Sky.

Later in the submission, Sky adds: "Sky accepts that the Freeview EPG may evolve and that improvements should be considered if they are likely to result in an improved consumer experience.

"However, in considering its evolution, DMOL must recognise the (limited) expectations viewers have in terms of how the DMOL EPG should operate.

"It must also always bear in mind the interests of existing channels to ensure that any proposed changes will not disadvantage them unnecessarily and, in any event, always be justified and proportionate in the circumstances (i.e. respond to a documented/demonstrable need and/or a clear consumer demand)."

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