BSkyB reverts to Herbert Smith as rivals demand Ofcom probe

BSkyB has returned to longstanding adviser Herbert Smith to help it navigate its latest regulatory hurdle.

BSkyB is one of the pay-TV players that media regulator Ofcom last week announced it would be investigating, with the potential to refer it to the Competition Commission.

The matter is mainly being handled in-house by BSkyB general counsel James Conyers, but the company is taking advice from a Herbert Smith team led by competition partner Elizabeth McKnight.

Ofcom will look into wide-ranging issues in the pay-TV market, including content control and distribution platforms, after receiving a joint submission from BSkyB rivals Virgin Media, Setanta Sports, Top Up TV and BT.

The probe follows a separate, unprecedented ministerial intervention by Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Alistair Darling (The Lawyer, 5 March), who has requested that Ofcom examines whether BSkyB’s 17.9 per cent stake in ITV represents a threat to public interest.

For that case BSkyB has turned to Allen & Overy (A&O), after a series of conflicts at Herbert Smith gifted A&O work on the original £940m purchase of the ITV stake.

Darling will have to decide by 27 April whether to clear BSkyB’s stake or refer the matter to the Competition Commission.