Hospitality Ulster Chief Executive Colin Neill made the call as he met a delegation of Northern Ireland MPs at Westminster recently to discuss the needs of the hospitality sector in NI and how it can be supported by government policy.
“It’s outrageous that pubs in Northern Ireland are treated differently than their counterparts in GB, with Sky TV operating two pricing policies, with a separate UK and Northern Ireland pricing policy,” he said, “This policy excludes NI pubs from discounts of up to 30% that their counterparts in the rest of the UK can avail of.
“In the rest of the UK pubs are offered discounts of up to 30% if they’re based outside centres of population and also if they sell food. It’s totally unacceptable for Sky TV to price NI differently and they need to come clean with a transparent pricing policy for all parts of the UK.
“Pubs here are already contending with soaring Sky TV bills as the company continues to put up prices to fund the increased costs of its sports rights deals.
“This practice needs to end. We need transparency and fair play.’’
MP for East Antrim Sammy Wilson agreed that it’s unacceptable that Sky can treat one region of the UK differently from another.
“We need a level playing field from Sky,” he said, stressing that, “Northern Ireland is as much part of the UK as England, Scotland or Wales, so it makes no sense whatsoever that it should be treated any differently.
“The Murdock (sic) bid to take over Sky TV is already under investigation by Westminster and I intend to make sure their NI pricing policy is also investigated. It’s time for Sky TV to stop abusing their power to discriminate against businesses in Northern Ireland,’’ he concluded.
However Sky responded that, “The current pricing structures in GB and NI reflect different factors in each market that we need to consider. We have been in discussion with a number of partners in NI including Hospitality Ulster to ensure that pubs and their customers benefit from an outstanding live sport experience.”
The company also added that its NI customers “are actually better off on the banded structure”.
Sammy Wilson has requested a meeting with Sky TV to see why it has a UK price list which offers discounts and a Northern Ireland price list that does not give the same discounts.
“Whilst we always maintain a cordial atmosphere in all discussions, we are still to be convinced that NI publicans are not missing out on discounts that are available in the rest of the UK,” concluded Colin Neill.
The NI Hospitality Sector forms an important part of the Northern Ireland economy, sustaining more than 60,000 jobs as it continues to grow.