More4 encryption angers free satellite viewers

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Channel 4 has been accused of misleading viewers after its supposedly free-to-view new channel, More4, launched on Monday as an encrypted subscription channel on Sky's digital satellite platform.

Viewers watching Sky channels without a viewing card were unable to access the new channel, which Channel 4 had said would be freely available from launch on Freeview, Sky and cable channels.

Several sent messages to forums on Digital Spy, and More4's own discussion forum. One Digital Spy forum member posted a letter they had written to their MP and the culture, sport and media department, complaining that having purchased a free satellite system they were now unable to watch More4. "The promise of More 4 for free was one of the few reasons I purchased the satellite dish," said the posting.

More4's forum contained messages accusing Channel 4 of misleading viewers. "Expect a lot of agro [sic] over this in the press and a lot of red faces ... I bet David Blunkett breathed a sigh of relief at all the viewers who could [not] watch a programme they had looked forward to all week!!". (A reference to More4's satirical drama A Very Social Secretary, which pulled in an average of 484,000 viewers on the channel's launch night.)

Other viewers contacted BBC News Online, which carried an explanation from Sky: "More4 is a subscription channel on the satellite platform under the agreement that exists between Sky and Channel 4."

Channel 4 confirmed that under its Sky contract More4 was a basic subscription channel. "More4 is positioned as a public service channel which we are providing for free and for which we are receiving no subscription income," a spokesman told BBC News Online.

"We would obviously like it to be made available to the widest possible audience. However, contractually the decision to place More4 in a basic subscription package rather than on their Freesat service is one that lies in Sky's hands."

Lovelace Consulting  |  12.10.2005

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