Sky reaches its limit with publicans

THE satellite television company Sky is to prosecute up to 100 publicans for illegally broadcasting soccer matches.

Premiership, Champions League and FA Cup matches are drawing large crowds to pubs but some owners are refusing to pay the commercial licence.

Sky has targeted the publicans with the help of the Irish Music Rights Organisation (IMRO), which carried out 2,500 pub inspections in the last year for the company.

Last month, Sky brought a case against publican James Brady of Brady’s bar, The Faythe, Wexford.

Brady was ordered by Wexford Circuit Court to pay €4,759 in royalties for breaching copyright. The bar was paying a householder licence fee only.

“We are committed to protecting the interests of our legitimate customers by taking action that ultimately can lead to prosecution of licensees who choose to enjoy the benefits of Sky without the proper commercial contract,” said a Sky spokesman.

He said it was likely some of the cases pending would be settled before court proceedings began.

Sky charges publicans on a five-point scale related to the size of their premises. The annual fee ranges from around €2,000 for a small pub to €4,700 for a larger premises, according to the company’s contract.

Pubs suspected of paying the Sky home fee - around €330 annually instead of the commercial licence fee - are sent a warning letter by IMRO. If the publican still does not co-operate, inspectors are sent during soccer matches to gather evidence, usually on five occasions, for a prosecution.

“We try to give every chance to the publican to regularise the service because no one wants to go to court,” said IMRO’s director of operations, Sean Stokes.

The Vintners Federation of Ireland and the Licensed Vintners Association, which represent around 7,000 publicans, were not available for comment.

Sky is becoming a dominant presence in Irish homes as well as pubs. Around 66% of homes have Sky’s digital or cable services and the company is to launch Irish bulletins on its Sky News channel.

More in this section