Sky has suspended its plans for a terrestrial pay-television service in the United Kingdom, blaming the regulator Ofcom for delays in approving its proposals. Ofcom says it is a matter for Sky. In the meantime, Sky News and Sky Sports News will remain available without subscription on Freeview.

Sky first announced plans for the proposed Picnic service in February 2007. Ofcom began a customary consultation, which then widened into a review of the entire pay-television market. This is still ongoing.

“The blunt truth is that Ofcom has spent 18 months looking at our proposals, and there is no end in sight,” said a Sky representative. “The Picnic team have done everything they can to prepare for launch and there’s nothing left to be achieved until Ofcom makes its mind up.”

Ofcom responded by saying “Any decision to suspend the project is entirely a business matter for BSkyB”. The regulator blamed the delays on late submissions from stakeholders, including Sky. Ofcom acknowledged that Sky had raised repeated concerns that it was spending insufficient time considering its arguments. The regulator said it aimed “to conclude this work as efficiently as possible while carrying out our duties to promote competition in the interests of consumers and citizens.”

Sky said that it had not changed its view on the attractiveness of the opportunity and would decide whether to proceed with the project when there is more certainty about its proposal.