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Disputes within Automotive Channel leads to shut down

Internal disagreements about the marketing strategy at the BSkyB's business-to-business Automotive Channel have been blamed for it being shut down today.

According to former Automotive Channel insiders, there was disagreement from the launch between Visage (which ran the channel) and Sky Business over marketing.

BSkyB refused to discount subscriptions at a time when the industry was trying to find ways to save money.

It is understood the decision to close the channel was taken after executives failed to clinch a deal with Ford Motor Company which lost interest when no special offers were available.

BSkyB says it will now concentrate on making programmes commissioned by manufacturers exclusively for their dealer networks, rather than on producing stand-alone news programmes.

A BSkyB spokesman said: “We've decided, from today, to end the Automotive Channel as it currently exists. The new, direction we will take is to produce tailor-made programmes for companies on such topics as training, sales promotions and product launches, which thanks to digital technology can be shown to an exclusive audience.”

He refused to give details of the number of subscribers to the Automotive Channel, but insisted a number of significant players in the auto industry were interested in the bespoke programme offering.

The Automotive Channel was launched at the Birmingham motor show in October with the full support of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

Its chief executive Christopher Macgowan welcomed BSkyB's initiative, saying it would provide industry news "without the spin".

However, the SMMT declined to comment on the channel's demise. "We do not normally comment on the closure of a commercial organisation that is not affiliated to the SMMT," a spokesman said.

Payment for the channel was through a monthly subscription of up to £295 for news and training programmes. BSkyB promised at launch “to raise the overall standard of news and analysis” through five hours of programmes a day, Monday to Friday, covering the aftermarket, franchising, new and used car sales and the fleet market.

BSkyB has promised to reimburse existing subscribers.

An Automotive Channel production crew on its way today to the Peugeot 307 press launch in Cardiff received a mobile phone call and was told to return to the studio.

National Union of Journalists and broadcasting unions have been called in by staff made redundant to try to secure better pay-off deals.

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