OUSU are hoping to negotiate a deal with Sky to give JCRs a fair price.
Currently, JCRs have to pay commercial rates for sky, which can be as large as £431 + VAT a month, for basic channels, sports and movies instead of a non-commercial rate which can cost just £36.50 a month.
Some Colleges have opted out of having Sky in their JCRs because it is too expensive. Worcester and Balliol Colleges, for example, have a Freeview box instead. Balliol have even rejected motions to install Sky on the basis of it being too expensive.
JCR President for Balliol Ali Travis said that it had just seemed “infeasible” to be able to pay for a public Sky subscription. He also said that they would install Sky if it became possible.
Other colleges have reportedly registered themselves as individual households in order to avoid paying the commercial rate. At least one College is registered as a cottage and at least two others have listed only one JCR member as its sole resident.
OUSU’s Common Rooms Officer Jack Matthews is hoping to open negotiations with Sky in the coming weeks, after more than a year spent compiling evidence and constructing an argument as to why common rooms should be recognised as “unique” and should not be treated as commercial.
Matthews admitted that the process had “taken longer than expected” and that he would have liked to get more done, but that it was important to present Sky with a well thought-through argument.
He said that there had been very positive support from common rooms in Oxford, Cambridge, Durham and St. Andrews as well as from other universities including Nottingham, Reading and Lancaster.
Matthews said: “I am hopeful that approaching and working with Sky TV will make them recognise the unique situation that common rooms across the UK are in, and that they don’t deserve to be treated as commercial entities”.
OUSU has looked into the possibility of using other providers such as Virgin Media and BT Vision but they were unable to provide services to common rooms. The response from JCRs was also that Sky would be their first choice.
Matthews will be handing the project to his successor after the OUSU elections last week.