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21 December 2014

BREAKING: Premier League TV football choice 'upheld' by EU advice

03/02/2011

(FROM BBC NEWS)

Broadcasters cannot stop customers using cheaper foreign satellite TV equipment to watch Premier League football, an EU legal adviser has said.

Broadcasters cannot stop customers using cheaper foreign satellite TV equipment to watch Premier League football, an EU legal adviser has said.

A non-binding opinion from advocate Juliane Kokott of the European Court of Justice said a block breached EU laws.

Portsmouth pub landlady Karen Murphy, fined for using Greek decoders, had argued the EU single market should let her use any European provider.

Sky and ESPN have the broadcast rights to Premier League football in the UK.

The satellite broadcaster has pumped billions into top flight English football since the league was founded in 1992, with the money given to clubs allowing them to buy some of the top names in the world.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) will make a ruling on the matter later this year.

'Damage interests'

It also says it "would damage the interests of broadcasters and viewers of Premier League football across the EU".

A spokesman added that if the advocate general's guidance was taken it would stop rights holders from marketing their properties in a way which meets the territorial and cultural demands of broadcasters.

They said they hoped the ECJ would uphold current European law, which the league said was "framed to help promote, celebrate and develop the cultural differences within the EU".

The Premier League also said that if European Commission wanted to create a pan-European licensing model for sports, film and music then it must go through the proper consultative and legislative processes, not use the courts.

'Contrary to EU law'

The case at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has been about whether a rights holder such as the Premier League can license its content on a country-by-country basis.

Such a set-up has allowed the league to fully maximise the value of its rights.

Although Advocate General Kokott's opinion is not binding, judges usually follow the guidance from the advocate.

If they do, selling sport, movies, or any other content, on an exclusive territory-by-territory basis within the EU may no longer be possible.

"The exclusivity agreement relating to transmission of football matches are contrary to European Union law," she said in her opinion.

"(The) exclusivity rights in question have the effect of partitioning the internal market into quite separate national markets, something which constitutes a serious impairment of the freedom to provide services."

Fined

Ms Murphy had been convicted for using the cheaper Greek satellite receiver to show top flight football in her pub.

She used the Nova firm to show matches in the Red, White and Blue pub in Portsmouth as it was less expensive than Sky.

Enforcers working on behalf of Football Association Premier League Limited (FAPL) - the private company which represents the broadcasting interests of the 20 English Premier League clubs - brought the prosecution saying only Sky TV had exclusive rights to show its games in the UK.

She had to pay nearly £8,000 in fines and costs.

Industry experts say satellite companies face having to reform - leading possibly to the creation of just a handful of pan-European broadcasters.

It was pressure from Brussels which forced the Premier League to offer its live matches to more then one broadcaster, rather then just renew the exclusive deals it traditionally had with Sky.

Packages were consequently taken up by Setanta, and when they went bust, by ESPN.

ENDS

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NOTE: As a key member of UKILTA (United Kingdom & Ireland Licensed Trade Association) we have lobbied extensively, and although this decision is 'not yet legally binding', we are pleased to see significant progress and hope for a ruling in the near future.

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