Storm as Sky threatens to take action against popular TV channels in Gibraltar after Gibtelecom's Sofi inquired about offering legal services

The Chief Minister and the Deputy Chief Minister, who are in London for Brexit issues, are said to be ready to meet Sky at the highest level to establish how Gibraltar can continue to obtain Sky television programmes without it being deemed to be illegal. 

The storm blew over after a new Gibraltar television service called Sofi, which is related to Gibtelecom, had made enquiries to see how they could offer Sky programmes.

Allegations centred on others in Gibraltar offering Sky illegally. One such operator, U-mee , said it was no longer broadcasting Sky channels.

U-mee said the following: Some popular TV channels, available for over 25 years in Gibraltar, are no longer available to most residents in Gibraltar. Since the introduction of a “fully licenced” entertainment product early in 2018, broadcasters and content owners have been encouraged to pursue the closing down of various popular channels in Gibraltar from providers including u-mee.

It adds: This includes most Sky channels available. Although representatives from u-mee have been corresponding with Sky for the past 9 months for an arrangement for Gibraltar we have been forced to agree to withdraw Sky channels from our fibre TV and Internet TV products with effect from Tuesday 8th January. We have been advised by Sky that action will be taken against other local television operators so any period where these services remain available from other providers should, in our view, be considered temporary.

U-mee goes on to "regret the inevitable inconvenience that this will cause our existing customers as well as the wider community - however, this is not due to any action we have taken and we very much regret the consequences.

"Residents in Gibraltar have for many years enjoyed a large number of TV channels at very low cost compared to other countries around the world. These channels have historically been provided by local companies and various estates. This has largely been possible, because broadcasters like Sky and content owners have taken little interest in Gibraltar due to its size. umee adds: Due to the complexity of content rights, only a very limited number of channels can be made available on a licensed basis to Gibraltar. For now Gibraltar stands to lose most Sky channels such as Sky Movies, Sky Atlantic, Sky Arts and most of the Sky Sports channels."

u-mee’s view is that as a result of recent technological developments the future lies in streaming services including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV as well as other streaming - and download services, and we expect the move towards individual subscriptions for premium content to continue unabated.

Gibtelecom recently launched its "fully licensed" Sofi entertainment system, which includes three Sky channels: Sky Sports Premier League, Sky Sports F1, and Sky News. Asked by GBC to confirm or deny if it had complained to Sky about the other providers, Gibtelecom said the extent of its contact with Sky had been to negotiate the legal acquisition of its channels.


However there have been crackdowns on illegal services elsewhere in Europe, apparently due to European Union laws. At this point it is not clear what situation would arise once Gibraltar and the UK leave the European Union.

Meanwhile, a report in January last year said that Police in Cyprus had detained three people in connection with the illegal transmission of cable TV content and illegal possession of central servers that were transmitting the TV signal in nine raids carried out in collaboration with Europol.

This was part of a broader operation, in coordination with Europol, also carried out in another three EU member-states.

The report spoke of a violation on European law on intellectual property.

Sky News is a British news organisation, which operates a TV network of the same name, a radio news service, and distributes news through online channels.

A channel called Sky News International, simulcasting the UK channel directly but without British adverts, is available in Europe, Middle East, Africa, South Asia, Asia Pacific, Australia and the Americas. Narrated segments (which generally cover lighter issues unrelated to current news stories) are played in lieu of adverts, and there are also international weather forecasts at the end of each half-hour newswheel.